Welsh Tories claim there’s ‘nothing to fear’ from bill that bans those without ID from voting
There is “nothing to fear” from a Bill that would ban those without ID from voting, the Welsh Tories have claimed.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Constitution, Darren Millar has criticised the Welsh Government for refusing to recommend legislative consent to the UK Elections Bill.
The Bill, which would impact General Elections and PCC elections in Wales, has been described as a “costly barrier to democracy” by Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru.
While Counsel General Mick Antoniw has said it imposes “unnecessary constraints” on voting and has warned of “unintended consequences” if the Bill becomes law.
However, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Constitution, Darren Millar MS has said: “This is nothing more than mischief making from the Welsh Government and its allies.
“Voters in Wales have nothing to fear from these proposals. The only people who should be concerned are those who intend to commit election fraud.
“People are required to present ID to vote in many vibrant democracies around the world including Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Iceland and Italy so I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the norm here in Wales.”
He added: “If people have to present ID to collect a parcel from the Royal Mail then I cannot see a problem with them presenting ID to cast their vote in an election.”
But Counsel General Mick Antoniw said that the Welsh Government is pushing for amendments to the legislation.
“The Welsh Government does not support the introduction of voter ID, the placing of unnecessary constraints on postal and proxy voting, or the extension of the overseas franchise,” he said.
“We are content that the Bill does not apply these to Wales, but we are concerned about potential unintended consequences such as voter and candidate confusion and complexity for administrators.”
He added that he was concerned with changes to the Electoral Committee and its relationship with the Llywydd’s Committee which scrutinises it.
“I cannot, therefore, currently recommend consent to the Bill. We are working with the UK Government with a view to seeking amendments to the Bill to reflect our policy position,” he said.
Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru (Wales), said that the Elections Bill makes “sweeping changes to our democracy”.
“It looks like UK ministers have barely engaged with Wales or Scotland so far,” she said. “This bill is being swiftly rammed through with little consultation, so it’s time for ministers to pause and rethink.
“Let’s be clear – this bill would ban anyone without ID from voting, while forcing over-stretched council workers to become bouncers at the ballot box, turning away potentially thousands of would-be voters each election. There is simply no need for this costly barrier to democracy. At a cost of up to £180m per decade, forcing this through is a strange priority for UK ministers right now.
“Moreover, the changes to the Electoral Commission represent a UK government power grab, with ministers given new controls over our elections watchdog. This is a dangerous and unprecedented move that the Welsh Government is right to oppose.
“This Elections Bill could lead to a ‘two tier franchise’ in Wales, with some elections banning those without ID, and others remaining open and free. Both the Welsh Parliament and Holyrood should use their powers to pause this power-grab bill, and secure changes to protect the right to vote.”