Karen Davis – photo © Julian Swainson

Karen Davis, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North, has slammed her Tory rival, Chloe Smith, for her government’s plans to bring in mandatory Voter ID, forcing voters to show photo ID in order to vote in elections.

The government’s plans, outlined today in the Queen’s Speech, form part of the Electoral Integrity Bill which will require voters to show an approved form of photographic ID in order to vote at a polling station in a UK parliamentary election in Great Britain and local election in England.

The announcement comes as official figures of a recent trial of this policy have shown that 740 people were denied the vote in this year’s local elections in ten trail areas across the country.

Meanwhile, figures from the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), show that 3.5 million British citizens do not have access to Photo ID and 11 million citizens do not have a passport or driving licence.

According to the ERS, out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was only one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – a rate of just 0.000063%.

The Electoral Reform Society have criticised mandatory Voter ID as “a barrier to many people exercising their right to vote.”

The government’s Electoral Intregrity Bill will also force postal voters to re-apply for their postal vote every three years whereas currently postal voters can opt to receive their ballot by post indefinitely.

Chloe Smith, Tory MP for Norwich North, is the Government’s Minister for the Constitution and will be responsible for driving through these controversial changes.

Commenting on the announcement, Karen Davis said:

“The Queen’s Speech contains proposals which will suppress voter turnout in elections. Many people do not have photo ID and will therefore be denied their democratic right to take part in elections. This is a direct threat to democratic participation.

“There are very few instances of voter fraud in this country. By adding a major barriers to voting like this to tackle such a minor problem is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Considering Chloe Smith’s local Conservative Agent in 2018 was convicted of three counts of election fraud for forging signatures on candidate nomination forms, you’d think she’d want to sort out her own back yard first.”

Electoral Reform Society attacks Tory proposals

Government plans to introduce mandatory voter ID in the Queen’s Speech have been described as ‘dangerous, misguided and undemocratic’ by the UK’s leading democracy group.

The Electoral Reform Society warn the policy will make it harder to vote for millions of ordinary people to vote. A 2016 Electoral Commission report pointed out that 3.5 million citizens in the UK do not have access to photo ID, and 11 million citizens do not have a passport or driving licence.

More than 700 people were denied a vote for not having ID in pilots conducted in May’s local elections – across just 10 council areas, according to official figures. The ERS warn that we could see voters excluded on an industrial scale if mandatory photo ID were rolled out nationally.

The ERS have highlighted Electoral Commission figures showing there were just eight allegations of personation fraud – the type voter ID is meant to prevent – in the whole of the UK last year, out of millions of votes cast.

Implementing mandatory voter ID would cost up to £20m per General Election, according to the government’s own figures.

The ERS lead a major coalition of charities and campaigners including Age UK, the Runnymede Trust, Stonewall and Liberty calling for ministers to reject mandatory voter ID.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“When millions of people lack photo ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME voters.

The government have sat on their hands in the face of the actual threats to electoral integrity: anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donations and disinformation. Instead of taking on the real issues, they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Make no mistake – these plans will leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless. Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights.

The government have been left with only a dog whistle to justify this ‘show-your’-papers policy, with no evidence of widespread impersonation.

Our constitutional rules should be fair for all sides – not a political football for whichever side happens to be in control. This gamble with our democracy will strike many voters as US-style gerrymandering, with Britain’s tradition of trust at the ballot box abolished in one swoop. Ministers must think again”.