Voter ID sees a 'dark day for democracy' as 'many' people are turned away from polling stations – Scotsman comment

Many will suspect voter ID requirement is designed to make it harder for some people to vote

As the English council election votes came in, Tom Brake, of campaign group Unlock Democracy, declared it was a “dark day for British democracy”. For the first time, people in the UK were required to present proof of their identity in order to cast their ballots and some found themselves turned away from polling stations. In Scotland, voter ID is already necessary in the event of a Westminster by-election, and from October, it will be required in UK general elections.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said that while the local elections were well-run, “we already know from our research that the ID requirement posed a greater challenge for some groups in society, and that some people were regrettably unable to vote... as a result”.

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Defending the decision to introduce voter ID ahead of the election, Rishi Sunak said: “I think most people agree our elections should have some form of identification so that we can make sure they are high-integrity processes." However, this suggests previous elections were not of “high integrity”.

If this were true, there would have been significant uproar after previous elections, as people complained of stolen votes. But instances of such fraud have always been rare. However, with the Association of Electoral Administrators saying there were “many anecdotal reports” of people being unable to vote in the English elections, an uproar of a different kind is now growing.

If the system wasn’t broken, why the need for a fix? Many will suspect this is a US-style attempt at blatant voter suppression and the “fix” is to make it more difficult for poor people, who may not have a passport, young people, whose travel passes aren’t accepted while pensioners’ bus passes are, and other groups to vote.

But whether or not this is the deliberate intention of the change – we like to think our politicians are not so cynical and corrupt – the effect is still the same. If support for the Conservatives rallies and they win a knife-edge general election next year by about the same margin as the number of voters turned away, there will be hell to pay.

The Electoral Commission will report on the impact of voter ID later this year. Unless they give it a clean bill of health, which seems unlikely, it should be scrapped.



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