Voter ID is expected to be introduced by May 2023 after the Government pledged to introduce legislation to ‘ensure the integrity of elections’.
Today’s Queen’s Speech said the Government would ‘strengthen and renew democracy and the constitution,’ which is expected through an Electoral Integrity Bill.
The Government made a manifesto commitment to introduce voter ID, arguing it would protect voters from having their vote stolen, and insisting it would not have a negative effect on turnout nor participation.
A previous Queen’s Speech in December 2019 pledged to roll out voter ID for UK parliamentary elections in Great Britain and local elections in England.
The Electoral Commission has called for voter ID for the last seven years though it has admitted that there was ‘no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud’ and has estimated that almost 3.5 million people do not have suitable identification.
Ministers declared pilots held in 2018 and 2019 a success but critics have pointed to the very low level of polling station fraud and have questioned whether there are bigger priorities, such as improving voter registration rates and preventing postal voting fraud.
Dozens of civil society groups have spoken out against the plans – from Age UK to Stonewall, Liberty, Operation Black Vote, Silver Voices and Centrepoint.
Director of policy and research at the Electoral Reform Society campaign group, Jess Garland, said the pilots had ‘failed to allay concerns that legitimate voters would be denied a say if this policy was rolled out’.
She said: ‘Voting is safe and secure in the UK, meaning this policy is just an unnecessary barrier to democratic participation.
'Ministers need to listen to these concerns and drop these costly plans.
‘These proposals will make it harder to vote for huge numbers of voters, locking ordinary people out of our democracy and unfairly discriminating against those who lack ID.
'Mandatory ID is an expensive distraction and the wrong priority right now.’
Shadow minister for young people and democracy, Cat Smith, described the Government’s proposals as a ‘solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist’.
She said: ‘It doesn’t matter how the Government dresses it up, these plans will make it harder for working class, older and black people to vote.’
Voters already have to provide ID before receiving a ballot paper in Northern Ireland, where there has been no evidence that the requirements have affected turnout.