polling station poster on clear glass door
Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

Today, as part of the Queen’s Speech, a new law affecting us all was introduced. If this law is passed, going forward, anyone wishing to vote in a Parliamentary Election will be required to show an approved form of photographic ID at the polling station. This may seem an unusual priority for the government in a post pandemic Britain, however when you consider who is most at risk of being denied a vote, perhaps the motive behind this change becomes clearer.

The government claims that the requirement to show ID before casting a vote is to “tackle electoral fraud”, and yet the evidence fails to back up claims that this is needed. According to the House of Commons Library, during the 2019 General Election 47 million people were registered to vote, it was alleged that 33 people had attempted to impersonate someone else to cast a vote, which resulted in just one single conviction.

In May 2019, when a voter ID pilot was tried out in 10 areas of England, the Electoral Commission recorded 1,968 people being turned away from the polling station. Whilst no data is held on the demographic of those turned away, a look across to America shows that, according to the ACLU, those most affected by voter ID laws were people of colour, the elderly, students and people with disabilities. Here in the UK it is estimated by the Electoral Commission that around 11 million people do not have a driving licence or passport, whilst 3.5 million people who are eligible to vote do not have any form of photo ID.

With 47% of black people not holding a driver’s license, Trans and Non-Binary people having access to the correct ID obstructed, many disabled people being ineligible for a driving license, the elderly having less access to the internet and the prohibitive cost of £47 upwards to obtain most photo ID, it is clear that this new ID requirement is an equalities issue.

Co-operative MP Luke Pollard tweeted his disapproval for this move this afternoon, referring to the practice as voter suppression, a viewpoint shared by many. A cornerstone of our co-operative values is to strive for a Britain where power is shared, this cannot be the case whilst so many are denied the right to vote. We will continue to call out this backwards step for democracy.