Campaigners warn that new photo ID plans could disenfranchise voters as Commons vote looms
Tens of thousands of voters in Wales could be disenfranchised if voter ID rules are imposed by the UK Government, campaigners have warned.
Senedd and local elections are devolved to the Welsh Government, but public participation in General Elections and PCC elections in Wales could still be impacted by the move.
But the Electoral Reform Society have warned that the Elections Bill could disenfranchise over two million voters across the UK, according to the UK Government’s own figures – including almost 100,000 in Wales.
The legislation will see voters forced to show ID in General Elections, all elections in England and PCC votes in Scotland and Wales, has its second reading on Tuesday 7th September.
Around 150,000 people have signed petitions against the ID check. The Electoral Reform Society are calling for as many people as possible to sign their own petition against the plans this week.
The government claims the plans are necessary to protect the integrity of elections. When challenged on plans for voter ID in the House of Commons in July, the Prime Minister said: “What we’re trying to do is to protect the democratic right for people to have a one person, one vote system.
“I have personal experience, I remember vividly what used to go on in Tower Hamlets and I think it is important that we move to some sort of some sort of voter ID,” Boris Johnson added.
“Plenty of other countries have it, and I think it’s eminently sensible and I think people will be reassured that their votes matter and that’s what this bill is about.”
Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said that it was the biggest change to voting in generations and “poses a huge risk to democratic equality”.
“There is no evidence to justify this heavy-handed plan, when we know the real threats to political integrity are unregulated lobbying, dodgy donations and foreign interference,” she said.
“These proposals could disenfranchise voters on an industrial scale, at huge cost. While ministers have promised a ‘free’ ID, we are yet to see the details. There are huge risks asking stretched councils to both provide new IDs and become bouncers of the ballot box.
“The calls to scrap this dangerous ID policy are growing by the day. These petitions are a snapshot of the increasing anger from across society at this undemocratic and unnecessary plan. It is time to defend the right to vote.
“It’s vital that all MPs and peers stand up for the right to vote and challenge this costly legislation head on.
“Ministers should be tackling the real issues in our politics: cleaning up Britain’s broken political funding, bringing in the nine million people who are missing from the electoral roll altogether, and – crucially – reforming Westminster’s one-party-takes-all voting system.
“Our electoral system is already unequal. The last thing we need is this attack on voters’ rights.”