One week into the new government and the joke is already wearing thin. In the Queen’s Speech, the government published an ambitious programme that focuses on what it calls “the people’s priorities”: funding for the NHS; local homes for first-time buyers; a vague guarantee that no one should have to sell their home to pay for long-term care; tougher custodial sentencing. These are things people demonstrably care about. The vanishingly small problem of voter fraud is not such a thing.
Outside Northern Ireland, personation has rarely been an issue in British elections. It is certainly not as big an issue as, say, unregulated social media propaganda or foreign interference, actual or attempted. Making voter ID compulsory is not a necessity; it is a party-political calculation that will erode our democracy. No wonder opposition MPs were subdued in the chamber today: the government is about to suppress the franchise under the guise of protecting it.
As things stand, only those already in possession of a passport, driving licence or new document, and whose names and date of birth exactly match the version on the electoral register, will be permitted to vote. Will Tony Blair be allowed to take a ballot paper if it says “Anthony Charles Lynton Blair” on the electoral roll, but “Tony” on his ID? Will Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson be allowed to cast a vote if it says only “Boris Johnson” on the polling officer’s list? Many people have names that don’t quite match up, or cannot quite remember where they left their driving licence. Compulsory photographic ID will lead to much confusion and frustration if it is applied harshly; indeed, justified anger.
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