Nestled among a raft of Ukip-esque anti-immigration policies in the Tory manifesto is a plan to force people to show identification when they vote. No passport, no driving licence? No vote. The Tories say this would stop electoral fraud, but statistics suggest they’re interested in making it harder for people to vote. According to data from the government’s own report of the 51.4m votes cast in all elections in 2015, there were a mere 130 allegations of voting fraud in 2015. That amounts to 0.00025% of votes. Now, these figures can’t be taken as exact; some of the allegations might be untrue, some go unnoticed. And as the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) pointed out, the report largely relies on “anecdotes and self-professed claims to have witnessed (or even just heard about) electoral fraud”. But even when taking all of this into account, you’d be hard pressed to make the case that voter fraud is in any way a significant problem in the UK.
What this means is the Conservatives have decided that if they win on 8 June, they’ll enshrine voter ID in law to deal with a problem that’s far from widespread. What’s more, the ERS says that voter ID wouldn’t stop vote-buying or coercion, even if it were a major problem. What it will do is make it more difficult for everyone else to vote. In fact, the Electoral Commission estimated that 3.5 million voters (7.5% of the electorate) would have no acceptable piece of photo ID – never mind the people who forget their ID or lose it just before an election.
Why, then, have the Tories inked this policy into their manifesto? There are two explanations, neither of which looks particularly good for the Conservatives. One is that they simply don’t care about making our democracy more democratic; the other that they’re cynically finding ways to actively undermine the Labour vote.