Outrage in UK as Boris Johnson bans voting without ID over alleged “electoral fraud”
London, Oct. 14, 2019 (AltAfrica)-British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has ran into another storm after government announced new plans to prevent people from voting unless they can provide photographic identification, prompting accusations it is attempting to “rig the next election”.
Under plans unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will require voters to produce photographic ID at the ballot box for parliamentary elections and English local elections, in what critics have called a “dangerous and undemocratic” reform.
A trial of the scheme in local elections this year saw 800 people reportedly turned away from polling stations, leading Labour to urge the policy be “abandoned immediately”.
On Monday, shadow voting minister Cat Smith claimed the announcement was a “blatant attempt by the Tories to rig the result of the next general election”.
Voter ID, intended to “tackle electoral fraud and protect our democracy”, is among a number of electoral changes the government is seeking to introduce. Under the scheme, anyone who does not have photographic ID will be able to apply for a free document proving their identity.
But Darren Hughes, of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), said “these plans will leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless”.In a statement, he said: “Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights.
“When millions of people lack photo ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters, including many elderly and black and minority ethnic voters.”
On Twitter, the ERS called the voter ID “dangerous and undemocratic”.
Another campaigner, Clare Collier from the Liberty charity, claimed that “the government has grossly inflated the risk of electoral fraud as an excuse to usher in ever-greater surveillance”.
And Toby James, head of politics at the University of East Anglia, told The Independent that “electoral fraud, or suspicions of electoral fraud, are exceptionally rare”.
He said: “That [has been] a very consistent picture across all of our studies. The problem that occurs instead is people turning up wanting to vote but finding their name isn’t on the electoral register.”
“There is no evidence, really, to justify the introduction of voter ID requirements,” Professor James added. “The problems are elsewhere. There’s a very significant risk that this is going to lead to people not being able to vote.”
n trials of such schemes, people have refused on principle to hand over their driving licence or passport, displaying a “philosophical resistance” to the idea, Prof James said.
The director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, said Mr Johnson’s move towards voter ID was “crazy”. In a statement, she told The Independent: “Many older people do not have any photographic ID so we sincerely hope the government is not going to legislate so this becomes a requirement before anyone is allowed to vote.
Evidence from around the world shows that forcing voters to bring photographic ID to the polling station just makes it harder for people to vote – while doing little to increase faith in the integrity of the system or stop determined fraudsters. We don’t need more barriers to people taking part in our democracy.
Thankfully electoral fraud is very rare in the UK. Where voter fraud has occurred, it has been isolated and therefore is best tackled locally.
Out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – that’s 0.000063%. Adding a major barrier to democratic engagement off the back of this would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
At the same time, voter ID laws would make no difference to allegations of fraud with postal votes, proxy votes, breaches of secrecy, tampering with ballot papers, bribery, undue influence, or electoral expenditure. But it would make it harder to vote for millions of legitimate voters.