This week, I joined leaders of 17 other civil society groups in signing a joint statement to challenge government plans to block those without ID from voting.
Official statistics show that there have been very low levels of voting fraud at previous elections and "no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud".1 On the otherhand, we're very concerned that a requirement to show photo ID at polling stations will create a needless barrier to voting, particularly for already marginalised groups, potentially disenfranchising millions.
Read the statement below.
Joint statement: Mandatory voter ID is a dangerous distraction
We are writing to express our deep concern about government plans to force voters to show ID at the polling station – or be denied a vote.
According to official figures, 3.5 million citizens do not have access to photo ID and 11 million do not have a passport or driving licence.
As the government has often made clear, voting is safe and secure in the UK – making mandatory voter ID a solution in search of a problem.
Instead, these proposals will turn polling workers into de facto bouncers – a role they do not want to have, and which raises its own risks of discretion and discrimination.
Our democracy is already deeply unequal, with millions missing from the electoral roll, and with major gaps in turnout between groups. We need to be revitalising our democracy – not taking a sledgehammer to political engagement.
Rather than inventing bogeymen and scare stories, ministers should focus on the real priorities facing our democracy.
At a cost of up to £20m per election, this is a worrying case of warped priorities. We urge ministers to engage with civil society groups on how to improve our political process, not undermine it.
Mandatory voter ID will bring up the drawbridge to millions of ordinary voters. There is still time to think again.
- Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society
- Dennis Reed Director Silver Voices
- Nancy Kelley, CEO, Stonewall
- Lord Simon Woolley, Founder and Director, Operation Black Vote
- Kyle Taylor, Founder and Director, Fair Vote UK
- Ibtisam Ahmed, Policy and Research Manager, LGBT Foundation
- Professor Matt Henn, Chair of Social Research, Nottingham Trent University
- Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Liberty
- Cara English, Head of Public Engagement, Gendered Intelligence
- Patricia Stapleton, Policy Manager, Traveller Movement
- Isobel Ingham-Barrow, Head of Policy, MEND
- Tim Hughes, Director, Involve
- Nick Lowles, CEO, HOPE not hate
- Larissa Kennedy, President, National Union of Students (NUS)
- Mete Coban MBE, Chief Executive, My Life My Say
- Jo Hobbs, CEO, British Youth Council
- Dorian Leatham, CEO, Migrants' Rights Network
- Klina Jordan, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Make Votes Matter
- 1. Only 6 cases resulted in caution, conviction or court proceedings from the 2019 election