Electoral Reform Society criticises Conservative voter ID plans

By agency reporter
May 23, 2017

The Electoral Reform Society have challenged plans in the Conservative manifesto to introduce voter ID across the UK as "overbearing and counterproductive".

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This pledge risks making our democracy even more unequal. As we’ve said before, mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut  – there is simply not enough evidence of voter fraud in the UK to justify such a dramatic change to Britain’s democratic traditions.

“The introduction of voter ID is something that has to be thought about very carefully – because there’s a substantial risk that this could raise barriers to participation and put people off voting.

“There’s clear evidence that strict voter ID rules in some US states disproportionately disadvantages ethnic minority voters and already-marginalised groups. And where they aren’t strict – as in Sir Eric Pickles’ proposals – they offer the worst of both worlds: making it harder for most people to vote while not preventing those who really are trying to defraud the system from doing so.

“The experience of photographic electoral ID in Northern Ireland is more positive – but there, ID is provided for free. The Pickles review proposals are instead a watered-down form which wouldn’t necessarily reduce fraud. For example, allowing the use of non-photographic (and perhaps easily-forgeable) utility bills would mean the change could actually do more harm than good.

“The UK has an international reputation for running elections with integrity and openness. It would be wrong to risk throwing that reputation away by making it harder for people to vote, without thinking about the consequences or how to improve our democracy and turnout alongside it.

“There are other things that can be done to limit potential fraud, without damaging participation. Clearer guidance and better training of election staff and Returning Officers are changes everyone can get behind, while other suggestions to introduce stronger powers against voter intimidation and to make it easier to launch ‘election petitions’ to report fraud are very much worth discussing.

“Let’s look at more positive reforms before making overbearing and counterproductive changes that raise barriers to our democracy.”

* The Conservative manifesto states:

“The British public deserves to have confidence in our democracy. We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting, to reform postal voting and to improve other aspects of the elections process to ensure that our elections are the most secure in the world. We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper, and tackle every aspect of electoral fraud.”

* Read Eric Pickles' review here 

* Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years.

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