Her Majesty’s Queens Speech this week will include a new Electoral Integrity Bill which will make photo ID’s a requirement at the ballot box, limit the number of relatives who can act as a proxy, and outlaw the “harvesting” of postal ballots by political parties and activists.
Unsurprisingly this has met with resistance from Labour MP’s, Councillors and activists who say this would threaten democratic participation and disenfranchise large sections of society. A central part of their argument is that approximately 3.5 million UK Citizens do not have access to photo ID and in 2013-14, around 11 million did not have a passport or driving licence and so potentially ineligible to vote.
The starting point in this debate must be the integrity of our democracy: would Voting ID’s restrict voting or enhance it’s integrity. I believe firmly in a strong democratic process that has integrity and in which people can rely upon.
The infamous case of Voting Fraud in Tower Hamlets 2014 found widespread electoral fraud including personation in polling stations and ballot tampering. The election was over turned in 2015 after trial and the Independent/ Ex-Labour Mayor removed.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-32428648
Closer to home in Birmingham in 2005 a High Court Judge ruled that there was widespread fraud surrounding the election of six Labour Councillors eventually overturning the results after trial.
“The system is wide open to fraud and any would-be political fraudster knows that,”Judge Mawrey
To have a strong democracy the integrity of our ballot box- a hard won and costly defended right- must be protected, especially as it is a right we exercise so infrequently and the implications of this one action will last for years.
Nearly all European countries have mandatory ID cards and so most countries require voter ID’s at polling stations. Other countries include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, India, Israel, Mexico, Hong Kong and the United States. Northern Ireland also requires Voter ID at poling stations.
There is also a simple solution which would safeguard against potential disenfranchisement: the issuing of free Electoral Identity Cards- a system already used in Northern Ireland and many other countries. Providing this option is free and easily available to those without neither passports or driving licences, I cannot see the objections of detractors holding any water.
As technologies, society and behaviours change so our systems and practices must continually renew, improve, and the price of democracy is ever vigilance. Nothing is perfect and we should always strive to improve. Anyone who believes otherwise is either unwilling to work together to improve the current system, or benefiting from the existing system.