Westminster Elections Bill is a ‘step back for democracy’, warns Plaid Cymru MP
A Plaid Cymru MP, has warned that the Westminster’s Elections Bill is a “step back for democracy”.
Ben Lake, who represents Ceredigion, was speaking ahead of a debate on the Bill in the House of Commons this afternoon.
He says will make it more difficult for people to vote in Westminster and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Wales because of the introduction of mandatory photo ID at the polling station.
A study by the Cabinet Office released in May suggest that over two million voters, including almost 100,000 in Wales, would lack the necessary ID to take part in elections following the change in the law.
Lake has warned that the change will “disenfranchise younger and black and minority ethnic voters” who are less likely to have the documents.
He also says that the “divergence” between UK and Welsh devolved elections is “worrying”, given that voting rights for Welsh elections have been extended to all those over 16 years old, including foreign nationals resident in Wales.
He says that while Welsh elections are becoming “more inclusive and democratic”, Westminster elections will see a “step back for democracy”.
Ben Lake MP said: “The Government’s own figures show that 2 million people could lose the ability to vote as a result of their plans to bring in voter ID, which will most likely disenfranchise younger and black and minority ethnic voters. This is despite evidence that there simply isn’t a problem that needs to be solved.
“The divergence between UK and Welsh devolved elections is also worrying. As Welsh elections become more inclusive and democratic – with all those with residency rights over the age of 16 having the vote – Westminster is going the other way. This is a step back for democracy.
“I will be urging the Government to withdraw this Bill and reintroduce a law that will strengthen our democracy, not weaken it.”
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.”