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Democracy campaigners are calling for the government to scrap mandatory voter ID to save cash, in a submission to the Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement next month.
Tom Brake, the Director of Unlock Democracy, is calling for a review of the Elections Act. The law introduced mandatory photographic voter ID requirements for elections in England, Scotland, and Wales – and is projected to incur a cost of up to £120 million over a decade, according to the government’s own Impact Assessment.
Brake argues that the financial undertaking is an unnecessary strain on the public coffers considering that there have been barely a handful of proven cases of impersonation fraud over the past decade.
The submission also highlights concerns regarding parts of the Elections Act that empowers the government to set out the strategy and policy for the supposedly independent Electoral Commission.
Individuals and groups can make representations for the Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement on November 22, with the aim of commenting on government policy and suggesting new policy ideas that should be considered – including opportunities to save cash.
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Brake suggests that relinquishing this government control could lead to savings on staff and administrative costs from the added layers of bureaucracy.
It comes amid a suite of local by-elections likely to see hundreds of voters turned away for lacking an approved ID.
October 19 will see UK Parliamentary by-elections in the rural Mid Bedfordshire constituency – resigned Johnson-loyalist Nadine Dorries’ old seat – and Tamworth, seat of the disgraced ex-Conservative Chris Pincher. Other potential looming by-elections include that Conservative Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, who faces a six-week suspension and possible recall petition for alleged bullying and sexual misconduct.
Tom Brake told Byline Times: “The Treasury has asked for ideas for savings for the Autumn Review. I suggested they scrap photo voter ID and the Government’s requirement to set the strategy and policy for the Electoral Commission.
“The treasury is facing an enormous financial black hole, rolling back on the costly, unnecessary and discriminatory photo voter ID measures would go some way towards plugging it, a win for the taxpayer and a win for democracy.”
Treasury Submission from Unlock Democracy
Submission: Repeal of aspects of the Elections Act. The Elections Act introduced photographic voter ID for elections in Scotland, Wales and England. The cost over 10 years, according to the government’s Impact Assessment, is expected to be up to £120 million.
The Act also gave the government the power to set the strategy and policy for the Electoral Commission. These are unnecessary policies and should be scrapped.
Savings: The savings associated with scrapping photo voter ID would be as listed above: up to £120 million over 10 years.
The savings derived from stopping the government setting the strategy and policy for the Electoral Commission would be the staff and administrative costs that were no longer incurred in maintaining this strategy.
Where the Money’s Going
According to the Electoral Reform Society, £3 million is being spent on new equipment to deal with voter ID.
Over a million of this has already been spent by local councils procuring 40,000 mirrors and privacy curtains for people who wear religious head coverings.
Redesigning the poll card to make it larger will also cost £80 million. Each card, which details approved ID types, must be folded and enveloped, unlike the old poll cards.
Extra staff costs equate to £30 million over a decade, with councils having to pour resources into new members of staff to verify over 30 million ID cards during a General Election.
Training costs £10 million, to ensure people’s ID is being checked correctly. Poll workers, unlike the Border Force staff, are novices in this area. Some studies have suggested a 10-30% error margin in photo matching with ID, meaning comprehensive training is vital to reduce the risk of voter disenfranchisement.
And the new free Voter Authority Certificates issued by councils to those without photo ID will cost £25 million. An estimated 2.1 million individuals, representing 4% of the population, are at risk of being disenfranchised due to the new ID rules.
Public awareness campaigns will cost another £30 million. A survey for Byline Times by independent pollsters Omnisis/WeThink before the local elections showed that 60% of voters were unaware of the impending ID requirements.
The Electoral Commission will also be laden with another £10 million of costs for monitoring the roll-out and working with councils.
Byline Times previously revealed that two firms awarded £8 million in contracts for printing and ID verification for the new voter ID rollout were previously tasked with working on projects relating to the governments’ shambolic pandemic response – including the production of paper vaccine passports.
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