Tuesday, 6th March 2018
A group of more than 40 charities, campaign groups and academics have written to the government to warn that plans to trial compulsory voter ID at the local elections in May risk disenfranchising large numbers of vulnerable people.
The letter to Chloe Smith, the constitution minister, says the pilot scheme is a disproportionate response to the scale of electoral fraud, noting that in 2016 there were just 44 allegations of voter impersonation, the issue that compulsory ID is intended to combat.
It said Electoral Commission figures indicated that 3.5 million people in Britain – 7.5% of the electorate – do not have access to any form of photo ID.
The letter was organised by the Electoral Reform Society and is signed by the heads of organisations including Age UK, the RNIB, the Salvation Army, the British Youth Council, Stonewall, Operation Black Vote, Liberty, the National Union of Students and St Mungo’s.
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It says the trial, which will require voters in five local authorities to show ID before they can vote on 3 May, could “present a significant barrier to democratic engagement and risk compromising a basic human right for some of the most marginalised groups in society”.
The letter says research has shown that the voters least likely to possess the necessary ID include young or older people, those with disabilities, BAME communities, homeless people and transgender and gender non-conforming people.
It argues that although the councils taking part in the pilots will provide other options for those without photo ID, “the measures do not go far enough to alleviate the potential risk of disenfranchisement and deterrent to voting”.
It also expresses concern about low levels of public awareness about the pilots and the issues they might cause, despite the local elections being just two months away.