Boris Johnson’s government has been urged by Labour to drop its “Trumpian” plans to make voters show ID before casting ballots at elections, with the opposition party arguing that the proposals are an attempt to “rig democracy” in the Conservatives’ favour.
Labour has warned that the plans, which are due to be set out in Monday’s Elections Bill, are “undemocratic” and will make voting harder for groups who do not tend to have identification.
On Sunday, shadow democracy minister Cat Smith accused the Tories of attempting to use the “cover of the pandemic to threaten British democracy”.
“Voting is safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy - this Trumpian tactic has no place in our democracy,” Ms Smith said.
“We've already seen how Conservative ministers ignore the rules, now they are trying to change the rules and rig our democracy in their favour.”
She added that the proposals would hit working class, older and ethnic minority Britons who do not have photographic ID.
At the last general election in 2019, just 595 cases of alleged electoral fraud were investigated by police, according to the Electoral Commission.
Only four of those led to a conviction and two people were given a police caution, leading the Commission to conclude that the UK has “low levels of proven electoral fraud”.
Representatives from organisations including the Electoral Reform Society, Stonewall, Liberty, Operation Black Vote and the National Union of Students have called for a rethink of the voter ID scheme, warning that 3.5 million people currently do not have photographic ID.
Senior Conservatives have also raised concerns about the proposals, with former Brexit secretary David Davis telling The Independent in May that there was “no evidence” of a problem with voter fraud at polling stations.
Mr Davis said: “It’s an illiberal solution in pursuit of a non-existent problem.
“If you’ve got an ID card, you’re putting a barrier in the way of people to exercise their own democratic rights, which is not necessary and shouldn’t be there.”
Downing Street has said that acceptable forms of ID have not yet been set out but a free council-issued “local voter card” will be available.
Government officials have also noted that ID is already required to vote in Northern Ireland, as well as countries such as Canada, France, the Netherlands and Sweden.
“Everyone eligible to vote will be able to do so - voters in Northern Ireland have been using photo identification since 2003 with no adverse effect on participation and a free, local voter card will be available to those who need it,” a Cabinet Office spokesperson said.
Additional reporting by PA
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