William Eichler 23 April 2018

Whitehall defends voter ID reform against accusations of ‘discrimination’

Whitehall defends voter ID reform against accusations of ‘discrimination’ image

The Government has been forced to defend its plans to require voters to produce ID at the polling booth after an equality watchdog warned it may discriminate against ethnic minority communities.

Whitehall is currently piloting a scheme in five local authority areas that will require voters to produce identification before receiving a ballot paper during next May’s local elections.

However, a leaked letter from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to Cabinet Office minister David Lidington warned at the weekend the requirement could prevent groups with ‘protected characteristics’, such as the elderly, transgender people, and ethnic minority communities, from voting.

The letter says these groups are less likely to have the necessary documentation and so will face the risk of disenfranchisement.

A spokesperson from the commission said: ‘It is essential to a healthy democracy that everyone has the right to participate fully in all aspects of political and civic life, and the freedom to express their opinions.

‘We should be encouraging people of all backgrounds to vote.’

A Cabinet Office spokesperson defended the policy arguing it is important for ‘protecting voting rights.’

‘We already ask that people prove who they are in order to collect a parcel from the post office, rent a car, or travel abroad.

‘We believe it is right to take the same approach to protect voting rights.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Local authorities are implementing Equality Impact Assessments and are working with partners to ensure that voter ID does not risk preventing any eligible voter from voting.

‘It is in nobody's interest that any elector is disenfranchised.’

The Electoral Reform Society has pointed out that electoral fraud is ‘extremely rare.’

In the 2016 elections, there were just 26 allegations of impersonation — the type of fraud voter ID is designed to tackle — resulting in two convictions.

The campaign group also said evidence from around the world showed that forcing voters to bring photographic ID to the polling station makes it harder for people to vote while doing little to stop fraudsters.

The equality commission has issued its warning about the potentially discriminatory voting reform after a week of stories detailing how members of the Windrush generation have struggled to access state services.

Many British citizens who arrived from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and 1970s have no record of their legal status.

Responding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s letter, Cat Smith MP, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, said this letter was proof the Government was trying to ‘undermine our democracy.’

‘The introduction of voter ID in polling stations is one of the most dramatic changes to our voting system ever,’ she said.

‘It is deeply concerning that the Government has ignored multiple warnings that these pilots will have a disproportionate impact on various groups, such as ethnic minority communities, older people, transgender people, people with disabilities.

‘Labour wants everyone’s voice to be heard at the local elections, no matter someone’s background, which is why we are calling on the government to abandon these damaging pilots.’

For more on this story read our feature, 'Voter ID: cure for fraud or unreliable encumbrance?'

No homeless veterans image

No homeless veterans

Ed Tytherleigh calls on every single council to identify and refer veterans to appropriate services to ensure there are no homeless veterans.
Highways jobs

Air Quality Monitoring Project Manager

Birmingham City Council
£34,788 - £42,683
Seeking a skilled and dedicated individual with a background in environmental protection and air quality to... Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Assistant Director Adult Social Care Operations

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
£88,768
You will have a strong track record in running a range of adult social care services, delivering cultural change and... Calderdale, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Director of Property

Government of Jersey
Competitive Salary
This is a significant opportunity to lead the modernisation of the Government’s approach to corporate property... Jersey (GB) (JE)
Recuriter: Government of Jersey

Director of Resources

The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead
Up to £135k
You’ll bring accomplished strategic leadership skills to the full range of internal resources... Windsor, Berkshire
Recuriter: The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

Executive Director, Resources

Greater London Authority
circa £130,000 per annum
You will possess exceptional financial acumen to ensure we use our financial assets to deliver benefits for Londoners. London (Greater)
Recuriter: Greater London Authority

Local Government News

Latest issue - Local Goverrnemnt News

This issue of Local Government News explores how councils can tackle modern slavery and trafficking in their supply chains, finds out more about Cambridge's first cohousing scheme and the launch of a new project to build a shared service pattern library for local government.

This issue also contains a special focus on children's services and how councils are protecting children following local safeguarding children boards being abolished.

Register for your free magazine