By Jack Walker
The Conservative party has pledged to introduce laws requiring the public to show photographic ID to cast their vote at national and local elections.
Charities who work with the elderly are concerned that such laws would disenfranchise voters.
Caroline Abrahams, the Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Many older people do not have any photographic ID, so we sincerely hope the Government is not going to legislate so this becomes a requirement.”
The Shadow Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs Minister, Cat Smith, took to Twitter to voice her opinion:
Voter ID is a blatant attempt by the Tories to rig the result of the next general election.
3.5 million don’t have access to any photo ID. If you restrict that to passport or driving licence it’s 11 million.https://t.co/rX9nugdcCQ
— Cat Smith MP (@CatSmithMP) October 13, 2019
The Conservatives first proposed the plan for voter ID laws back in 2015 but have so far been unable to find the necessary support to get the policy passed through the House of Commons.
In the Queen’s Speech last week, the Prime Minister suggested that voter ID laws were necessary to “tackle electoral fraud and protect our democracy.”
But after the 2017 general election, the Electoral Commission found that there were just 336 cases of voter fraud, out of a total 32 million votes cast.
In 2015, the same body also found that “approximately 3.5m electors (7.5% of the electorate) would have none of the [valid] forms of photo ID” required to vote.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS), who campaign for strengthening British democracy, also responded after the plans were announced.
Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the ERS, said: “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.
“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.”
Homelessness is also an often-forgotten reason that people cannot vote, and this is also the case in Leeds.
In February 2019, Leeds City Council published statistics in their Homelessness and Rough Sleep Strategy, suggesting that there are 130 homeless people in Leeds.
If these people do not possess any form of ID, they will be unable to vote under the government’s new plans.