Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election: Rishi Sunak's anti-democratic voter ID rule should be scrapped as soon as possible – Scotsman comment
For years, campaigners have complained that requirements for photographic identity cards have been used as a form of voter suppression in the US. Soon a similar rule will apply in Scotland. A registered voter, attempting to cast their ballot in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election next month, will be turned away if they do not have an accepted form of ID.
So, is this an attempt at voter suppression by Rishi Sunak’s government? Well, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg rather let the cat out of the bag after the rule was introduced for the first time in this year’s English council elections.
“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding that their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections,” he said. “We found the people who didn't have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
Willie Sullivan, director of the Electoral Reform Society Scotland, described the new rules as “a solution looking for a problem” that would disproportionally disenfranchise “the disabled, the unemployed, young people, those from deprived areas, and those from ethnic minority backgrounds”. This could, he warned, have “a major impact on the general election”.
An Electoral Commission report into the English council elections, published yesterday, found that four per cent of people who did not vote cited the requirement for ID as the reason; and about 14,000 people who tried to vote were turned away at the polling station. In stark contrast, there were seven cases of alleged voter ‘personation’. The report recommended a number of changes, including increasing the number of accepted forms of ID and allowing a voter with ID to vouch for someone without it.
However, given voter fraud has never swung an election and Sunak’s voter ID scheme has the potential to do just that, if Labour wins the next election, they should add it to the bonfire of damaging, iniquitous and downright foolish legislation passed in recent years. This could be Sunak’s ‘Liz Truss moment’.
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