Amid mounting concerns about electoral fraud, the Electoral Commission recommended in 2014 that people in Great Britain should have to prove their identity when voting. The 2017 Conservative party manifesto pledged to “legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting”. To test the waters for this, the Cabinet Office recently revealed that a pilot study would be conducted in the May 2018 local elections. ID will be required at polling stations in five areas of England: Bromley, Gosport, Slough, Watford and Woking. This gradual drive towards compulsory voter identification in Great Britain (it’s already compulsory in Northern Ireland) has encountered some strong opposition from campaign groups. The Labour party has also argued that its traditional voter demographic will be the most affected by the reforms.
The debate around compulsory ID has been most intense in places where disenfranchisement has been a widespread problem in the past – most notably the US. There has been a distinct lack of scrutiny in much of Europe, even though several countries already require ID. This divergence is to some extent understandable. The blatant racial discrimination that has shaped much of the political and social history of the US has added to concern that voter ID is leading to disenfranchisement among minority groups.
However one must not forget that it took many centuries for the voting franchise in the UK to be expanded beyond a narrow circle of wealthy, middle and upper class men. It was not until relatively recently that women, the young and the working class were allowed to vote. We must be alert to anything that could reverse that expansion.
Full Article: Voter ID plans could disenfranchise millions.