Electoral Reform Society joint letter: Mandatory Voter ID

Civil society groups in the UK have written a letter, spearheaded by the Electoral Reform Society, to the Constitution Minister asking her to reconsider the imposition of mandatory voter ID.

The letter states:

  • The policy is a hugely disproportionate response to the type of fraud it seeks to prevent, namely personation. 350 people were turned away from voting for not having the correct ID in the five pilots compared to 28 allegations of in-person fraud made in total in 2017 out of 45 million votes
  • The policy continues to pose a risk for disadvantaged groups and those already on the margins of politics

The 21 signatories include; Age UK, Runnymede Trust, Liberty, Race on the Agenda and Unlock Democracy.

Dr Omar Khan said:

Runnymede calls on further pilots to determine whether voter identification changes will increase already existing racial inequalities in voting rights, and to learn how Britain can better tackle the voter registration gap which currently exists.

Read the full letter:

“Dear Ms Smith,

We write following the publication of the Electoral Commission’s report on this year’s Voter ID pilots.

The findings in this report fail to allay our concerns that mandatory ID will disproportionately impact the most marginalised groups in society.

The report highlights that the sample sizes were too small to conclude anything about how the scheme would affect various demographic groups. The inability to reach any such conclusions was exacerbated by the homogeneity of the five pilot areas.

The report notes “there is not yet enough evidence to fully address concerns and answer questions about the impact of identification requirements on voters”. We agree with this conclusion. As it stands, this policy has the potential to create a significant barrier to democratic engagement for the communities we represent.

Additionally, trials at local elections do not tell us about the effects of a Voter ID requirement during a General Election, when the strain on polling station staff will be higher and when a much broader cross-section of electors turn out to vote.

It remains the case that Voter ID would tackle only a small category of voter fraud, namely personation, of which there is little evidence of a widespread problem. Yet it has the potential to disenfranchise a significant number of legitimate voters.

350 people were turned away from voting for not having the correct ID in the five pilots areas in May, and did not return. When compared to the 28 allegations of in-person fraud made in total in 2017 – out of nearly 45 million votes – it is clear this scheme is anything but a proportionate response.

Further trials are a distraction from the many more pressing challenges our democracy faces. There are other measures which the government could be pursuing, which would do more to help meet the Cabinet Office’s plan to improve democratic engagement.

We urge the government to think again about imposing this risky policy of voter ID.

Yours sincerely,

[Signatories]”

Full list of signatories:

  • Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society
  • Caroline Abrahams, Age UK Charity Director
  • Dr Helen Cameron, Head of Public Affairs & Social Policy, The Salvation Army
  • Dr Omar Khan, Director, Runnymede Trust
  • Corey Stoughton, Acting Director, Liberty
  • Jo Hobbs, Chief Executive, British Youth Council
  • Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation
  • Dr Shazad Amin, CEO, MEND
  • Balbir Chatrik, Director of Policy and Communications, Centrepoint
  • Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive, LGBT Foundation
  • Alex Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
  • Janet Morrison, Chief Executive, Independent Age
  • Matteo Bergamini, CEO & Founder, Shout Out UK
  • Matt Gillow, Founder, TalkPolitics
  • Eric Kostadinov, Managing Director, TalkPolitics
  • Dennis Reed, Director, Silver Voices
  • Professor Matt Henn, Chair of Social Research, Nottingham Trent University
  • James Cathcart, Director, Young Voices Heard
  • Sarah Pickard, Senior lecturer and researcher on young people’s political participation, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle.
  • Andy Gregg, CEO, Race on the Agenda
  • Beatrice Orchard, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, St. Mungo’s
  • Dr Ben Stanford, Lecturer in Law, University of Coventry