Ruth Davidson swears about voter ID proposals in May
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Voters will be required to bring formal photo ID with them to polling stations from May, following the introduction of new voting laws. The Elections Act 2022, which passed through parliament last year, was introduced to reduce voter fraud, and a new Express.co.uk poll has found widespread support among readers for the measures.
The national rules will be introduced at the local elections on May 4 and from October in the rest of the UK. Voter ID has been required in Northern Ireland since 1985 and photo ID since 2003.
Britons will need to give their polling clerk their name and address, as before, and also show a suitable form of photographic ID, which includes a British passport, driver’s licence, over 60s bus pass or a disabled driver’s blue badge. Voters without a valid form of ID can apply for a free voter authority certificate online by April 25.
The Government claimed the measures are needed to “protect the integrity of our democracy” and added that the lack of effective ID checks at polling stations leaves the electoral system vulnerable to fraud. Voter identity fraud in the UK is rare with just 79 allegations and one caution issued in 2021 out of almost 50 million ballots cast.
The Local Government Association expressed concern towards the new measures, with a spokesperson commenting that they had “not been given the appropriate time, resource, clarity and detailed guidance to implement any changes to the electoral process without risking access to the vote”.
In a poll that ran from 11am on Saturday, February 4, to 7.30am on Wednesday, February 8, Express.co.uk asked readers: “Do you support UK introducing voter ID requirements?”
Overall, 13,271 votes were cast with the overwhelming majority, 87 percent (11,575 people), answering “yes” in support of voter ID being a requirement.
Whereas 13 percent (1,656 people) said “no” it should not be introduced, and a further 40 people said they did not know either way.
Thousands of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers took part in a lively debate.
The most common response from readers was in favour of voters being required to show photo ID at polling stations, with username escapee commenting that it is “well overdue!”.
Username bendoon said: “There is nothing wrong with ID. We need to take the lead of the European countries and have voter ID.”
Another, username britainfree said: “Indeed. No proof of ID and entitlement then no vote.”
Username John 57 added: “I’ve never understood why it’s never been required.”
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While username KatRead1960 said: “Most people under 40 have been used to showing ID for decades in pubs, clubs, supermarkets etc. Showing it to vote is not going to be a problem.”
And username MrsMitchell said: “I am completely pro-democracy which is why I fully support voter ID at the polling stations. I also fully support a massive crackdown on ‘proxy’ and postal votes.”
Other readers commented that the postal vote system needed to be reformed if the Government hoped to reduce voter fraud. Username buttercup1 wrote: “ID solves some of the problems but postal voting seems to be the main source of fraud.”
Similarly, username brexitrocks said: “Fine, but it fails to solve the issue of postal voting. This used to only be available to those who had a bona fide reason for not voting in person.”
Username govt-inaction agreed, writing: “The UK voting system is now totally bust and can’t be trusted. The Voter ID legislation is merely sticking a plaster.”
However, some readers argued that voter ID was not a viable option for the UK. Username olly smyth said: “No, I have worked as a Poll Clerk many times. It’s virtually impossible for voter fraud to occur in the polling stations. The checks we have to do prevent it.”
While username BingBangBosh commented: “The issue is that poorer people are less likely to have a valid photo ID such as a driving license or passport.”
The Electoral Commission has said as many as two million voters could be disenfranchised because they do not have a valid photo ID.
Shadow Levelling Up Minister Alex Norris described the initiative as “completely unworkable” as it is “set to lock millions of people out of voting”.
He explained: “The Conservatives have got their priorities all wrong. During a cost of living crisis when people are struggling to make ends meet, it is an outrage that they would rather spend money on disenfranchising them.”
A Government spokesperson said the “vast majority of eligible voters” already had accepted ID, and those without had until April 25 to apply for free.
They added: “We are pleased that so many people have applied within the first two weeks and will continue to work with the Electoral Commission to ensure all voters are aware of the new requirement.”
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