The UK Government is proposing to make people use Photo ID at polling stations in future elections. This would require Councils, as the electoral body responsible for organising elections, to issue millions of identity cards.
However millions of people do not have Photo ID cards. It is suggested a driving licence may be enough but, there are millions like me who have a paper licence – something I’m not gong to replace when it expires. Another suggestion is to use a passport but again, there are millions of people who don’t have one. Mine’s expires in a couple of years just when this scheme may come into effect and I may not renew it. Would my travel pass be enough?
Mandatory ID for voting was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1985 owing to the troubles there and photos were introduced in 2003. People there were allowed to use a variety of documents until the electoral identity card with the photo element was introduced in 2003.
The whole purpose of this is to prevent election fraud, something that there is very little evidence for. It’s more likely to lead to people losing their right to vote if they don’t have the right paperwork.
I don’t know what’s like elsewhere in the UK but here in Scotland – where these proposed changes may only apply in elections to the UK Government not to elections purely taking place in Scotland under Scottish Government control – the Councils issue voters with polling cards with a person’s name, address and polling place on it. The theory is that you take your card to the poll place and are given a ballot paper but it’s not enforced. You can just turn up, quote a name and address and if you are not marked off the register as having voted you are given a ballot paper. This is something that could be tightened up on – no polling card, no ballot paper. There is no need to add a photo element to it.
The current system works fine as it is. There is no evidence of fraud and the UK Government should be challenged to provide it. If they can’t provide the proof there is no reason to change it.