Last week I voted for the first time, and what an amazing experience it was. I walked 2 minutes to my nearest polling station, queued up (albeit socially distanced and masked up), told someone my name and my address, and just voted. It was as simple as that — and this simplicity is what is at the heart of democracy. Nobody should have to jump through hoops to be able to cast their vote, they should be able to register, turn up on the day, and have their say. The whole idea is that we all have one vote and we all have equal opportunity to cast it — we shouldn’t be hindered by bureaucracy or paperwork or fees. But there are people in this country, the ruling class to be precise, who would like that to change.
On May 11 2021, during her speech, the Queen introduced the government’s plan to “strengthen and renew democracy and the constitution” by ensuring “the integrity of elections” through the Electoral Integrity Bill. The Bill in question would require people to have Photo IDs to vote. The purported aim of the Bill is to reduce electoral fraud, by requiring people to prove they are who they say they are. “Its about fairness,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, going on to say that “people across the county want to know the elections are fair and this is just one measure to make the country a fairer place.” So that’s pretty good, right? I mean, electoral fraud must be pretty high for this Bill to even be discussed, surely? Well…no.
In 2014, 44.6 million votes were cast with just 28 allegations of voter fraud (0.0000063%), and only one conviction. The Electoral Commission stated “There remains no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud in 2019.” and noted that electoral fraud is of “low prevalence” in the UK. So why is it being introduced then? The truth is that it isn’t about reducing electoral fraud, its about voter suppression, when the real issue is in fact voter participation (we need to get more eligible people coming to the polls). 3.5 million British citizens do not have a photo ID and 11 million citizens do not have a passport or driving licence. To acquire a provisional driving licence costs £35, and a passport, depending on the number of pages and how you apply, could cost you nearly £100. So unless photo IDs are provided freely, a vote is now tied to your ability to pay for an ID — a bureaucratic blockade to the proper democratic process of voting. Former Cabinet minister, David Davis, said the ID plan was an “illiberal solution for a non-existent problem.”
According to Big Brother Watch, a non-profit non-partisan British civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation, the elderly, poor, and BAME groups are most affected by the ID requirement. Save for the elderly, these groups are more likely not to vote Tory. This Bill will also disproportionately impact young Labour voters, as young adults are more likely not to have a passport or drivers licence. If these people are not able to acquire ID, they essentially become disenfranchised, and as Lyndon B. Johnson famously declared, “A man without a vote is a man without protection.”
Matt Hancock — who is not at all responsible for the instances of electoral reform laid out in the Queen’s Speech — was wheeled on to Sky News (most likely because Johnson and Patel don’t really like being interviewed) and said the 6 cases of voter fraud in the 2019 election was ‘6 too many’. You know what is too many? 5 million children in the UK living in poverty, 280,000 homeless people, 130,000+ COVID deaths, 1.9 million people depending on food banks, and the list goes on. Why attempt to tackle non-existent electoral fraud when fraudulent COVID contracts (too many, and too much money) have been given to Serco and Dyson? Oh wait, because you are the same guys committing all that fraud. So of course you’re not going to address it — instead you’re going to try and distract everyone and suppress votes via this electoral fraud Bill. How about we talk about the ‘too fews’: doctors and nurses only got a 1% pay rise, Dyson didn’t produce a single ventilator, the UK government has cut foreign aid on water, sanitation, hygiene and family planning projects in underdeveloped countries by 85%, and, yet again, the list unfortunately goes on.
If the Tories wanted to introduce real, conducive electoral reform they could have tried to overhaul the ‘first passed the post’ system of voting which fails to reflect the popular vote, or they could quit gerrymandering constituency borders, but they won’t because they don’t care about democracy, they just care about keeping their own power. First the 2019 Prorogation of Parliament, then all the ‘Culture War’ policies, the Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and now this ‘Electoral Integrity Bill’, which is just the Conservatives’ most recent affront against democracy.
Johnson himself has voted against photo ID requirements on 12 occasions. Perhaps this quote from him back in 2014, best concludes this article: “If I am ever asked to produce an ID Card […] I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it.”