Photo ID: an end to voter fraud or an end to democracy?

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The current political cognoscenti have developed an obsession with voter fraud. Fears of Communist interference was a central part of both Donald Trump’s 2016 and 2020 US Presidential campaigns. These anxieties have crossed the Atlantic, with the Queen’s Speech containing plans for new measures to combat British electoral fraud. Will their reported decision to bring in photo ID as a form of voter eligibility really end voter fraud, or will it simply disenfranchise groups of the electorate that historically don’t vote Tory?

As recent local elections have shown, the Tories are in an incredibly strong position. Their Commons majority has been bolstered by their historic by-election victory in Hartlepool, the number of English Tory councillors rose by 236, and Labour’s crushing defeats leave them in the middle of an identity crisis.

Despite approximately 130,000 Covid-19 deaths, renewed troubles in Northern Ireland thanks to botched Brexit negotiations, the eminent possibility of Scottish independence, debacles surrounding ‘free school meals’ and A-Level results, an increase in hate crime, a 128% increase in the use of food banks, no justice for Grenfell and failure to remove dangerous cladding from other such buildings, the rise of ‘Tory sleaze’, the slow privatisation of the NHS, and an independent inquiry into the funding of renovations to Number 10, the government continues to make gains across Britain.

The government continues to make gains across Britain

Their next step is a clear attempt to curtail the democratic rights of those voters that historically vote Labour. The introduction of photo ID as an eligibility test for voting is just another way of securing Britain’s future status as a one-party state, something that is a certainty unless Labour can overcome internal debates at both parliamentary and grass-root levels.

Around 25% of the electorate do not have a passport or a driving licence, with the majority of those in this category being younger people. As a result, the introduction of photo ID would essentially disenfranchise a quarter of the population. Crucially, however, it is a quarter of the population that has historically voted for left-wing parties. In the 2019 General Election, 56% of 18–24-year-olds voted Labour whilst only 21% voted for the Conservatives.

To secure photo ID requires money. The cost of a provisional driving licence is up to £43, the cost of a passport is on average £80, the average weekly benefit amount for a single adult is £296.35 per week. Once you deduct food, bills, and rent from this amount, many would simply not have the money to spend on securing a passport or driving licence.

The majority of those on benefit live in cities, and those cities tend to return Labour MPs and Mayors. Of the top 5 most deprived areas in 2019, 4 have Labour-run councils or Labour Mayors. Clearly, therefore, introducing economic restrictions on voting greatly benefits the Conservatives as it removes opposition support.

Additionally, nearly half of BAME families in the UK live in poverty. A sickening statistic in and of itself, it is made worse by the fact that 44% of black Brits do not have a driving licence. The introduction of photo ID would therefore see a larger percentage of British BAME people disenfranchised than it would white people. More tellingly, however, 64% of BAME people voted Labour compared to only 20% that voted Conservative in 2019. Voter restrictions therefore not only secure Tory victory but secure longstanding systemic and institutionalised racism.

Photo ID is a solution to a problem that does not exist

Statistically, elections with low turnout favour the Conservatives; Tory London Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey did better than expected in part due to the 4% reduction in turnout from the last election. Therefore, if you restrict the number of people that are physically allowed to vote, you can greatly enhance the Tories’ chances of victory.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted in an interview that there had only been six cases of electoral fraud in the last General Election, which he declared to be ‘six cases too many’. If the threshold for taking action is six cases of something, how come 4.3 million children live in poverty? How come 280,000 people in this country are homeless?

Photo ID is a solution to a problem that does not exist. It is an attempt to secure indefinite Tory power and is a direct threat to our democracy.

Image: secretlondon123 via Creative Commons

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