Photo credit: Steve Houghton-Burnett / Unsplash

The UK Government’s Elections Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on Monday 5 July 2021.

This stage is formal and takes place without any debate. The Government says: “The Bill will strengthen the security of the voting process by introducing a requirement for voters to show an approved form of photographic identification before collecting their ballot paper to vote in a polling station.”

Responding to the introduction of the Bill, Charlie Whelton, Policy and Campaigns Officer for civil rights organisation Liberty, said: “No matter our background or political leaning, we know that in a healthy democracy everyone should have the right to vote. However, introducing mandatory voter ID is a very real threat to this right.

“Millions of people in the UK don’t have photo ID, and the vast majority of them come from communities that are already marginalised and under-represented by our political system. If you’re young, if you’re a person of colour, if you’re disabled, trans or you don’t have a fixed address, you’re much less likely to have photo ID and could therefore be shut off from voting. Meanwhile the Government’s own findings show our current voting system is safe and secure.

“These plans are unjustified, discriminatory and divisive. They are also profoundly anti-democratic, and should be seen in the context of this Government’s ongoing bid to undermine accountability and erode the mechanisms we all use to hold it to account and stand up to power.

“We must reject the politics of division and come together to defeat these divisive and discriminatory plans, and ensure everyone can have their voice heard.”

In its 2020 report on Black People, Racism and Human Rights, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights noted the potentially racial discriminatory impact of the Government proposals to require a form of photographic ID in UK Parliamentary elections in Great Britain and local elections in England.

The Chair of the Joint Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said: “The right to vote is fundamental and should be equally available to all. Currently you do not need any form of identification to vote as long as your name appears on the electoral register. The incidence of voter fraud is low.

“We know from our 2020 report on Black People, Racism and Human Rights that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are likely to be disproportionately represented amongst those who do not have certain types of photographic ID. Other groups may also be disproportionately effected such as the young, older people and those with certain disabilities.

* The Joint Committee’s report, Black people, racism and human rights is available to download here.

* More information on the Bill here.

* Sources: Liberty and Joint Committee on Human Rights

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