Queen's Speech

In light of the government’s plans to require photo ID to vote in UK elections many constituents have been in touch to express outrage.

The Government believes the measure will “strengthen the integrity of elections” and “protect voters from electoral fraud”. Labour will actively campaign against these measures.

It is my understanding that this Bill will only apply to UK Parliament elections and not Scottish Parliamentary or Scottish local elections. I will be monitoring this when the text of the Bill is published.

The Government states voter ID is “a reasonable and proportionate measure” to prevent voter fraud, which “undermines the integrity of our current electoral system”. Ministers have presented voter ID as a solution to tackle the specific issue of voter impersonation in polling stations. Electoral fraud is a serious crime and every allegation must be investigated fully.

However, the proposals outlined by the Government are clearly disproportionate. In 2018 there were just 8 allegations of polling station impersonation, which resulted in no convictions or cautions. 2019, a year with a high turnout general election, saw just one conviction, out of over 59million votes cast. Further, the Electoral Commission says there are “low levels of proven electoral fraud”.

The Electoral Commission also estimates that one in four voters do not have a passport or photographic driving licence and millions can’t afford the privilege of carrying photo ID. I share concerns from UK charities and US civil rights groups that the Government’s Voter ID plans will lock millions of people out of democracy – in particular the elderly, low income and Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters. It will reverse decades of democratic progress and we are demanding that the Government rethink this pointless policy.

We saw with the Windrush scandal how some communities struggle to provide official documentation, with severe consequences. Yet the Government continue to plough on with Voter ID plans, turning a blind eye to how this could disenfranchise Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

It is extremely misleading for the Government to argue that voting is like ‘picking up a parcel’ – where some ID is required. Unlike going to the post office or the library, voting is a legal right, not a privilege. Voting rights are closely linked to the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Voting is safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy.

Myself and my Labour colleagues will continue to oppose the Government’s choice to prioritise voter ID, which will cost millions of pounds, instead of focusing on the millions of voters who are missing from the electoral register. We should use the might of government to encourage people to vote rather than make it more difficult.

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