Voter ID: a solution that doesn’t work for a problem we don’t have

To paraphrase Mrs Merton: what first atttracted the Conservative government to voter ID, a scheme that would stop many non-Tory voters from voting?

After an unsuccessful attempt to introduce it in 2017, voter ID is back! Back! BACK! This version is slightly more sensible than Theresa May’s version from two years ago (unlike May’s proposals it has plans to try and address postal fraud too), but it suffers from the same fundamental flaw: voter ID is a solution that doesn’t work for a problem that we don’t have.

We have a problem with election rigging in the UK, but it isn’t happening in person at ballot boxes. It’s happening in campaigns that flout electoral law with little regard for the consequences, and on the ground it’s happening with postal voting. Voter ID doesn’t affect either of those things.

The number of people prosecuted for the offence of personation in 2017 was 1.

The number of people in the UK without photo ID is 3.5 million.

We know voter ID disenfranchises people, because we already have it in the UK: it’s part of the Northern Irish political system, and it disenfranchised 1/10th of the electorate. That’s with the same system the UK government is proposing here, where photo ID will be available for free (when you’re poor, £43 for a driving licence or £85 for a passport is a lot of money). In the UK’s trials of voter ID so far, significant numbers of people were denied a vote. When some majorities can be as small as two, every vote matters.

Voter ID being sold as a solution to a problem that we do not have, but the government doesn’t want it because it believes it’ll stop one or two people from committing personation. It wants it because voter ID reduces the number of people who vote, and those people tend to be the ones who don’t vote for right-wing parties. That’s why it’s a favoured tactic of the Republican Party in the US, which the UK Conservative party increasingly resembles.