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Democracy for All?

How New Voter ID Laws Could Impact the Next General Election

By Frederica Allen

Photo Credit: Elliot Stallion via Unsplash

Back in 2022, the government passed legislation that requires voters to bring suitable photo ID in order to cast their ballot, aimed at improving the validity of our elections. The idea was that the ability to walk into a polling booth with nothing but a piece of paper posted to the constituent was not secure and open to fraud. As such, requiring photo ID should, theoretically, improve the validity of the election, since it enforces that a voter can be easily identified and turned away should they try to either vote under an alias or obscure their identity in any way.

However, some groups have pointed out that this new law comes with some flaws that could endanger not only the validity of our elections, but also the principles that uphold our democracy. The Electoral Reform Society has stated that voter ID laws put up barriers that disincentivize marginalised groups from voting, due to the fact that obtaining accepted voter ID requires paying money to obtain, such as a passport or a driver’s licence. This impacts those whose financial situation is unstable, as people who have to make a choice between paying for ID to vote or paying for food and energy are more likely to choose the latter. This expounds the plights of students, as student IDs are not included as acceptable forms of photo ID for the government’s standards.

It also impacts minorities who may feel uncomfortable having to show ID to civil servants and poll workers. Any group that has suffered from systemic discrimination, especially those whose social markers are easily identifiable such as race and gender, will be anxious when asked to prove their identity from that same system that has abused them, even if the individuals checking their identity are fair-minded people.

Additionally, it can prove troublesome for those who suffer from conditions and circumstances that prevent them from going to the polling stations themselves. The need to prove your identity adds several hurdles to the process, since, if one were to send a representative to cast the ballot in one’s place, the complications of that representative needing to prove the identity of a person not present and that they are not fraudulently casting ballots rises exponentially, and sending a ballot through the post would require entrusting one’s ID in the hands of the courier and postal system to not lose it, a risk many might consider a bridge too far.

It’s strange, considering that public opinions on the validity of the elections remains their highest since 2012,

with the Electoral Reform Society measuring that 80% of people feel elections are well run, 87% that elections are secure, and 90% that polling stations are safe. The organisation also states that the actual validity of elections are overwhelmingly secure, with fraudulent ballots in both the 2017 and 2019 general elections being below 0.001% of the overall ballots cast.

So, why have this law? It seems to be following a conservative trend from the US, where claims of electoral fraud seem to stem more from sheltered individuals who presume there is a single ‘right’ way to vote and who don’t seem to realise how these laws affect those less fortunate than them. However, these laws also favour retirees, who have more time on their hands compared to their younger contemporaries with studies, careers and families to tend to. These older generations are more likely to vote conservative, whereas younger people, especially those who are starting their careers, are not as conservative yet don’t have as much time on their hands.

So, what can be done? The easiest solution is to remove the requirement for photo ID, since it doesn’t actually do that much for how expensive it is (the government’s estimate is that it will cost an extra £180,000,000 a decade). Alternatively, if it is deemed necessary to maintain this requirement, we should implement practices to make it easier to obtain ID as well as get to the polling station. The EU, unlike the US and UK, provides a mandatory ID to all citizens, and doing the same would remove the economic barrier for many, and making polling days bank holidays would provide the busy with time to vote. 

However, until such changes are made, the best that can be done is to...

...get a suitable ID as soon as possible, and if anything proves to be an obstacle to that, consult your friends, family and MP should it be sufficiently difficult.

1 Comment

han gu
han gu
10 hours ago

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