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Sunday, 23 June 2024
Warning over photo ID law change for UK-wide and English elections
The UK government is due to introduce a bill in the spring to make photo ID mandatory from 2023 for all UK-wide and English elections.

Campaigners say move will hit ethnic minority and working-class communities English elections

Changing the law to force people to show photo ID to take part in UK elections will be catastrophic for ethnic minority communities, increasing barriers to access and in effect disenfranchising them, equality and democracy campaigners have warned.

Boris Johnson’s government is expected to introduce a bill in the spring to make photo ID mandatory from 2023 for all UK-wide and English elections. But critics argue it is unnecessary, given low levels of voter fraud in the UK, and will disproportionately impact ethnic minority and working-class communities.

There was only one conviction for “personation” fraud, which voter ID is meant to prevent, in the UK in 2019.

Approximately 11 million electors (24% of the electorate) hold neither a passport nor a driving licence, the photo ID expected to be mandated under the legislation.

Latest figures show 24% of white people in England do not hold a driving licence, compared with 39% of people of Asian ethnicity and 47% of black people.

In the run-up to an all party parliamentary group on race and community event on voter ID on Tuesday, Halima Begum, the director of the Runnymede Trust, said: “People from black and minority ethnic groups are less likely to be registered to vote, vote and be elected.

“Many voters do not have photo ID, and that ownership of ID can differ by socioeconomic groups, with citizens from BAME communities at a particular potential disadvantage. The current proposals suggest a negative disposition towards voters at a time when trust in politicians and the democratic process is quite low.” English elections

Last week, three leading US civil rights groups warned that the UK plans amounted to Republican-style voter suppression and were likely to erode faith in the democratic process rather than reinforce it.

The UK groups opposing the electoral integrity bill say it is being proposed at the same time as Joe Biden is seeking to expand voter rights in the US.

Patricia Stapleton, the policy manager at the Traveller Movement, said: “Gypsy Roma Traveller people are already underrepresented and poorly served by mainstream politics, and many older Gypsies and Travellers do not possess requisite photo ID. This bill will further marginalise and deter people from these communities from voting.”

The Electoral Reform Society urged the government to focus on “the real problems”, including 9 million people not correctly registered on the electoral roll.

Chloe Smith, the minister of state for the constitution and devolution, said: “Photo identification has been required in Northern Ireland since 2003, when introduced by the last Labour government. There has been no adverse effect on turnout or participation by such groups since then.” English elections

source: Haroon Siddique