Josiah Mortimer of the Electoral Reform Society reveals the contradictions in the Government’s plan to introduce Voter ID

“Users without ID, or users who are reliant on ID from family members, would experience a serious restriction of their…experience, freedom of expression and rights. Research from the Electoral Commission suggests that there are 3.5 million people in the UK who do not currently have access to a valid photo ID.”

If this sounds like an Electoral Reform Society’s argument against mandatory voter ID contained in the current Elections Bill, you might be surprised. It’s the Government’s own words.

After admitting that making identification mandatory for social media users could disenfranchise 3.5 million people, ministers have just scored an astonishing own goal.

The above words came in an official response to an e-petition calling for social media users to be verified by showing ID when setting up accounts.

Yet in a reply to a separate petition – calling for ministers to scrap plans to force all voters to show ID – the Government said:

“Showing identification to prove who you are is something people of all walks of life already do every day. It is a reasonable and proportionate approach to extend this practice to voting and to give the public confidence that their vote is theirs, and theirs alone. Everyone who is eligible to vote will continue to be able to do so.” 

This has now been directly contradicted by the Government itself, in response to the social media petition. Millions of people lack photo ID in the UK – making mandatory voter ID a threat to the right to vote.

In other words, the Government is pushing forward with its illiberal Elections Bill – which contains the provisions for mandatory voter ID – despite publicly admitting it could lock millions out of political participation.

Commenting, Willie Sullivan, Senior Director (Campaigns) at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This is an astonishing admission from the government, undermining its own case for mandatory voter ID.

“If the Government believes that ID for social media users will restrict the freedoms and rights of millions of people, the same stands for voter ID. It will make voting harder for everyone and lock huge numbers of people out of democracy.

“We are truly through the looking glass now, with one department attacking ID while another imposes it on the whole country make it harder to vote,” Sullivan continued. “The Government’s culture department is right, along with Conservatives like Ruth Davison and David Davis who argue that mandatory ID is an illiberal, costly policy that will only make our democracy more unequal.” 

Josiah Mortimer is Head of Communications for the Electoral Reform Society

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By the government’s own admission – and research – mandatory ID could pull up the drawbridge to millions of voters. The government must now scrap this dangerous, undemocratic policy – and listen to its own department. 

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