The British government plans to make voter ID mandatory for national elections by 2023. It would be one of the most significant election reforms that the country has seen in recent years.
If passed, voters will be required to produce some form of identification at the polling station, such as a passport, library card, or driving license. The Conservative Party had promised reform in its election manifesto during the previous general election.
“We will be introducing new measures, as part of the Government’s manifesto commitment, to prevent the potential for voter fraud in our electoral system… This will further strengthen the integrity of UK elections and will include ID checks at the polling station and rules that prevent abuse of postal and proxy votes,” a cabinet office spokesperson said in a statement.
At present, potential voters only have to provide their name and address at the polling center before they can vote. With the new reform, ministers hope that the public will have better confidence in the voting process and election results.
The inclusion of library cards as a valid form of identification is to protect lower-income classes’ voting rights. Other IDs like a passport or driving license require a nominal fee. Voting ID requirements will be included in the government’s proposed Electoral Integrity Bill scheduled to be introduced in the parliament in the coming months.
Members from the Labor Party have criticized the proposed law, calling it racist and accusing the requirement of voter suppression. Cat Smith, the Labor Shadow Minister for Democracy, stated that the voter ID requirement would make it harder for black people to vote.
Organizations like Liberty Human Rights also stated that mandating identification would prevent many people, including the disabled, trans, and people of color, from their right to vote. It has called the move a “threat to democracy” and asks that the proposal be shelved.
Political commentator Calvin Robinson criticized the suggestion that black people might be excluded from voting rights because of a law mandating voter IDs. He said that’s patronizing and offensive since it suggests that people from the black community are somehow incapable of obtaining the necessary identification.
Back in 2019, the government had conducted voter ID pilots in England. Only 1 percent of the voters were found to lack any proper ID. If people do not have identification, the proposal allows them to receive a free ID from the local council before Election Day.
Voter ID in America
While the UK government is strengthening voter ID requirements for elections, the U.S. government is going in the opposite direction. The ruling Democratic Party has introduced a bill called “For the People Act” in both the House and the Senate.
If passed, the law will require that people be allowed to vote even without identification as long as they provide a sworn statement affirming that they are who they claim to be. The Democrats support the bill saying that it will make voting easier, remove barriers to vote, and ensure better democracy.
Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, warns that the proposed bill is bad news for states that require voter ID compliance.
“If you’re a state like Alabama or Texas that has a voter ID law, you might as well forget it because this federal law would override all state voter ID laws, so they’re now unenforceable… It makes it almost impossible for states to compare their statewide voter registration list with that of other states to try to find people who are registered and voting in more than one state. They make that as difficult as possible,” he said in an interview with Breitbart.