With compulsory voter ID introduced as we anticipatee British local elections, the BBC has reported the likelihood of staff being “overwhelmed” as voters and staff look to witness a wave of controversy around the new rules coming to shore.
4 May will mark the very first time every in-person voter in English local elections will need to show identification, and whilst the Electoral Commission has announced extensive planning to prepare, many are questioning how fluid the elections will run.
Opposition is already growing strongly to the compulsory voter ID with many declaring it an alienating process. For those who have a different last name on their driver’s licence or passport to their name registered on the electoral commission, they must apply for a voter authority certificate. For anyone who is passionate about their vote, this process would seem rather simple but given how the Mirror reported one in four voters wrongly believe they don’t need ID at May local elections, the anticipation of a tumultuous voting process seems an accurate prediction.
The grounds for the introduction of voter ID comes after the government said the measure would stop votes from being stolen – something rather unknown in the UK. 1,386 cases of alleged electoral fraud have been reported to the police since 2018, according to the Electoral Commission. These reports led to nine convictions and six police cautions. A mere 15 cases perpetuating consequences in 5 years have been stated to be the grounds for a radical, and unprecedented, change to the electoral system.
Although a majority of citizens will likely wield an appropriate form of ID, it is estimated two million don’t. The likelihood of the Conservative-led government introducing voter ID to “protect the integrity of the ballot box” after only 15 consequential cases, compared to the two million who will feel sweeping consequences seems both misguided and doubtful.
These new rules will place a strain on any gender non-conformist, whose ID will be called into question or potentially claimed invalid, as well as many from the Gypsy or Traveller community. With many of the transgender citizens likely associating under left-wing philosophy, questions are being raised for the intentions behind the new rules as coincidence, or strategic?
Age has remained the biggest dividing factor in voting for the last decade, therefore, if the Conservatives were to make a play to obstruct votes in order to maintain power, age would undoubtedly be their main target. According to YouGov, for every 10 years older a voter is, their chance of voting Tory increases by around nine points. Coincidentally, 60+ Oyster cards are being highlighted as a valid form of ID, however, young people are prohibited from using their railcards or student Oyster cards. This is voter suppression in the rawest black and white form.
To ‘steal an election’ is not just to fake a box of ballots for a preferred candidate, it is also to disproportionately target a group known to vote a certain way and suppress that vote. Unlock Democracy director Tom Brake said “This exclusive poll confirms that tens of thousands of people will be turned away from polling stations on May 4th” Additionally it is estimated the cost of providing ID to people who do not have any will cost taxpayers up to £230m a year.
Whilst for many, they may not even blink at the new rules, there is a clear mass amount of people whose vote will not be heard come 4 May. In theory, voter ID can ensure the integrity of elections, but only when operated proportionately and with correct intentions. Otherwise, and in the present time, we are witnessing voter ID being used as a weapon to deter people from voting and supress votes. Information for voting in the upcoming local elections can be found here.
Editorial Credit: Sushmita Regmi
Image Credit: PXHere
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