On the 14th of October the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland travelled to the Houses of Parliament in the state coach to read out the Queen’s Speech.
The Queen’s speech is the UK Government’s programme for legislation to be passed during their term in office. Rumours abound that a General Election will be called to take place soon after Brexit and that the Queen’s Speech is merely the announcement of what will be in a Conservative Manifesto.
A clip of the Queen’s Speech is included at the end of the article if you wish to listen to it yourself but one of the most alarming announcements in it is of Voter ID.
There are hardly any instances of people going to the polls and pretending to be someone else. It is extremely rare but Voter ID has been put into action already in pilot areas in England. Members of the public who turned up to vote and who could not provide evidence of who they are were turned away. (This also happened to many EU citizens who had correctly applied to vote in the UK for the EU Elections but somehow they were not listed on the electoral roll)
The Voter ID unveiled by the UK Government will require you to produce your passport or photographic drivers licence. A 2016 Electoral Commission report pointed out that 3.5 million citizens in the UK do not have access to photo ID, and 11 million citizens do not have a passport or driving licence.
The plans unveiled in the Queen’s Speech to impose mandatory voter ID have raised fears of a ‘Windrush scandal for democracy’ by The Electoral Reform Society (ERS).
The Electoral Reform Society warn the policy, announced as part of a package of legislative measures around voting and elections, will make it harder to vote for millions of ordinary people.
While ministers have promised a free form of identification from local councils on request, the ERS point out this represents another barrier to voting that will put many off – with large variations likely in terms of how easy the cards are to acquire (some forms of free ID in the May trials were only available to apply for in person in a council office – meaning zero people secured one).
Compulsory voter ID trials, which took place in local elections in ten councils in England saw more than 700 people denied a vote for not having ID in pilots according to official figures. The ERS warn that we could see voters excluded on an industrial scale if mandatory photo ID were rolled out nationally.
Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“The Windrush scandal showed what can happen when millions of people who lack ID are shut out by government. BAME groups – as well as many young and elderly voters – are likely to be hard hit by this ‘show your papers’ policy.
“These plans risk excluding huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME voters – from our democratic processes and risk undermining free and fair elections.
“There remains no evidence of widespread impersonation at the ballot box yet the government continues to cynically pursue this ‘show your papers’ policy knowing full well the potential impact across the country.
“These plans are set to leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless and hit some groups much harder than others. Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights.”
The UK already has a problem with millions of people who are entitled to vote being missing off the Electoral Register. This is just one more factor making it more difficult for people to exercise their democratic rights to choose who governs them.
You can read more about that here:
- Electoral Register in Scotland Down Despite Increases in Population & Franchise
- 9 Million People Missing From The Electoral Register
And if you wish to register to vote you can do so here: Register to Vote
Reporter: Fiona Grahame