Unnecessary, Discriminatory, and Potentially Disenfranchising: The UK Government's Mandatory Voter ID Laws are Undermining Democracy

17 Mar 2023

Unnecessary, Discriminatory, and Potentially Disenfranchising: The UK Government's Mandatory Voter ID Laws are Undermining Democracy

The government's recent decision to require voters to show photo identification at polling stations has drawn widespread criticism. While it may seem like a measure to prevent electoral fraud, in fact, it creates unnecessary barriers to voting and will disproportionally affect marginalised communities.

Firstly, obtaining a valid photo ID card can be expensive, requiring additional fees, documentation, and time off work to obtain. These barriers do not only make it harder for individuals to cast their votes, but they also add a financial burden that many cannot afford. While the government claims to provide free photo ID to those who need it, many yet to apply, and there is a risk that voters may be turned away from the polling station.

Moreover, the requirement for mandatory voter ID discriminates against certain communities who may struggle to obtain a photo ID or even fail to do so. This could include ethnic minorities, elderly voters, and low-income individuals who are less likely to hold a driving license, and they may need to travel long distances or take time off from work to obtain an ID. Consequently, many voters could be disenfranchised and prevented from exercising their right to vote.

Additionally, there is little evidence to suggest that voter fraud is a significant problem in the UK elections. The government's motive for implementing such laws is therefore questionable, and many critics argue that it is merely a political move aimed at disenfranchising certain groups or rigging future elections.

Furthermore, voter ID laws are unnecessary measures put in place to address voter fraud concerns that do not exist. Voter fraud is a real issue, but the few cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted in the UK were non-impersonation, such as postal vote fraud, something that could not be stopped by voter ID requirements. Therefore, the laws are addressing a problem that does not exist and ignoring the most significant threats to election fairness, such as voter intimidation, suppression, and foreign interference.

It is important to note that obtaining a valid photo ID is not only a time-consuming process but also an expensive undertaking. The cost of obtaining the necessary documents and paying for the ID card is a significant barrier for many eligible voters, perpetuating socio-economic inequalities. Moreover, it is concerning that the government has not initiated a public awareness campaign to educate voters about these changes and the id card's importance, given that it was their idea. Also, the low number of people signed up to local authority free ID cards is highly worrying, indicating that the government's plans may result in low voter turnout and disenfranchised voters, undermining the foundations of democracy in the UK.

In conclusion, the introduction of mandatory voter ID laws is bad for democracy in the UK. By creating additional barriers to voting, disproportionately affecting marginalised communities, and ignoring genuine problems with the electoral process, the government is undermining the foundation of democracy. Rather than focusing on voter ID laws or other measures that restrict access to the ballot, lawmakers should be looking for ways to expand voting rights and access to eligible citizens. The right to vote is crucial, and the government must ensure that the electoral process is transparent, fair, and equal for all eligible citizens.