Electoral Reform Society Cymru has condemned plans to prevent people who lack ID from voting as an ‘expensive distraction’ – at a cost of up to £20m per General Election, according to the government’s own figures.
The details of the scheme will be set out in a new Electoral Integrity Bill, announced in the Queen’s speech this spring, and implemented in time for the May 2023 local elections.
The plans formed part of the Conservative manifesto in 2019, with the party promising: “We will protect the integrity of our democracy, by introducing identification to vote at polling stations, stopping postal vote harvesting and measures to prevent any foreign interference in elections.”
ERS Cymru however say that the policy of mandatory strict ID presents a major risk to democratic access and equality, saying that possession of ID is not universal and is particularly low among certain groups of voters.
They pointed to official figures which show there was just one case of personation at the ballot box in Wales in 2019.
Millions of people lack the strictest forms of required documentation, such as a passport or driving licence, they said. If mandatory ID were to be rolled out nationally, it could potentially result in tens of thousands of voters being denied a say every election.
Commenting on the plans, Jess Blair, Director at ERS Cymru, said: “These plans risk locking thousands of people in Wales out of democracy at every single election. Elections in Wales are safe and secure, and it is reckless and wrong to impose this expensive policy at a time when there are far bigger problems the UK government should be worrying about.
“If you don’t have your ID at the post office, you can go back the next day. With your ballot, your vote is gone for good. The Welsh Government must not only speak out strongly against these unwanted proposals but explore every avenue available to oppose them.
“The government’s plans infringe on the management of elections here, as a devolved issue and could widespread confusion with some elections requiring ID and others not.
“As things stand, this policy is a dangerous distraction from the pandemic and we urge the Welsh government to listen to civil society and challenge this ‘show your papers’ policy.”