The Government will include controversial plans in Tuesday’s Queen Speech that will require Britons to show photo ID when voting in future general elections, it is understood.
The plans, which are being presented as a means to tackle electoral fraud, sparked widespread anger on Monday morning when reported by the Guardian. According to the Electoral Commission, the UK has “low levels of proven electoral fraud”, and 2019 saw just one conviction.
Opponents of the plans see ID checks as unnecessary and fear that their implementation could deter many people from taking part in democracy.
According to a parliamentary research briefing, estimates have suggested around a quarter of the electorate do not currently have an acceptable photo ID, many of which are young people and black people. Critics have argued that people from these backgrounds are less likely to vote Conservative and that this may have played a role in the policy creation, especially given the lack of proven voter fraud in the UK.
The Government has argued on multiple occasions that protecting people’s votes is a responsible measure.
Labour have expressed their strong opposition to the plans, with Shadow Minister for Democracy Cat Smith saying;
“It doesn’t matter how the Government dresses it up, these plans will make it harder for working class, older and black people to vote. Giving people a say at the ballot box helps make our democratic country what it is, and we must not do anything to undermine that.”
People who are disabled, transgender or don’t have a fixed address may also be less likely to have a valid photo ID.
As well as there being criticism of the plans from opposition MPs, senior Conservative David Davis also urged the government to abandon the plans in an interview with The Independent.
In 2019, trials took place in some areas to test the use of voting ID at polling stations, though these trials saw many people turned away for not possessing suitable ID.
It has previously been indicated that members of the electorate without a photo ID would be able to apply for a form of voting ID from their local authority. Despite this, the use of voter IDs could represent additional barriers to voting – people may forget to apply for ID or take their voter ID with them to vote, and young people which may be uncertain about whether to vote may be turned off by the additional rules.
The plans are expected to be announced in Tuesday’s Queen Speech in Parliament. The speech will set out the government’s priorities and laws which it intends to pass in the upcoming session of parliament, with the official State Opening of Parliament due to begin at 11.25am.