There is a certain level of trust when it comes to voting in UK elections because nobody requires an ID card to vote. This sounds somewhat absurd in a country where ID is needed for alcohol, driving, and crossing international borders among the many other cases. Naturally, being asked to bring some form of identification to vote sounds like a no brainer to most of the population and the introduction could happen relatively unnoticed to the average British voter.
The Queens speech has been laid out, mandating that the government try and introduce such a bill through parliament. Identification under the governments proposed pilot schemes would leave up to 2 million people unable to vote according to research from The Guardian. The kickback to proposals have emerged from minority voters and disabled rights groups and looking at the consequences of such policies in the U.S., ethnic minority and rural voters are seemingly more affected by the need for voter identification. Evidence is mixed across college researchers and government institutes, but the motivations are clear in a nation where Conservatism is being eroded by increasing number of minority voters who generally lean towards the Democrat party, who are largely liberal.
A landmark U.S. supreme court decision in 2003 (Shelby county vs Holder) which found it unconstitutional for state governments to require a federal (central government) go-ahead to make changes to their voting apparatus. This can include cutting the location of polling stations and requiring identification. Since the decision, around 800 polling stations closed in largely African American districts across Texas. Since Donald Trump’s loss in November, the Washington post found around 250 new bills across state governments have been introduced, all by Republicans, relating to voter apparatus.
We can be pedantic and point to the unclear evidence and the minorities that vote republican, but that is missing the point profoundly and shows massive disregard to fundamental democratic principles that our societies are founded upon. It is quite simply one party over another trying to manipulate a system to achieve a favourable but not a representative result.
Since the UK is a representative democracy, that is what we should seek to achieve in opposing the introduction ID cards. In the name of securing our country against voter fraud is one of the key fixtures of the Conservative’ proposal which, only 3 people have been convicted for since 2015, the same number of people that are killed by a lightning strike in a single year.
Staking this claim against 2 million potentially suppressed votes is largely reflective of where post-Brexit Britain is heading and is potentially an ugly precedent that will restrict certain groups of voters; namely older, disabled and those from lower income groups who cannot afford or access specific types of ID. Minorites could also be disproportionately affected due to language barriers and an all-round higher percentage without formal identification. When you consider labour takes much of the minority vote, this can be seen in plain sight as voter suppression from a government already tightening laws around protest, which again is a subtle attack on our freedom of expression.
We must be clear this is not an attack on Conservatism but an attack on the current government’s stance on democracy. Had this happened under a labour government, the response would be equally as denigrating. Just as the U.S. system has shown us, the evidence is unclear as to who identification affects but the motivations behind it carry far more clarity when you look at the bigger picture of voter suppression.
More often than not, are we becoming obsessed over party politics and ignoring the fundamental attacks and inevitable rotting that happens to an outdated political system. Dominic Cummings revelations are nothing we did not suspect; the current government has had some huge issues handling covid and over ministerial conduct but ignoring subtle and impactful policies such as voter identification will allow this to continue.
Johnsons government know their voter base are much older and to suppress groups arguably more loyal to labour is a plain and simple method of consolidating their current electoral lead. The prime minister has called the voter suppression idea “complete nonsense” citing a more transparent electoral process, yet the reality is that we already have a proven polling system with little to no discrepancies.
If this is not voter suppression then at the very least, displays a nonsensical distrust in the population to make an informed, fair choice when it comes to elections. If the government cannot trust the people, then how on earth are we supposed to trust them because that is all democracy has been built on, the trust between the elected and the electorate.