Anne Sandager
1 week ago

Tory Attempt at ‘Gerrymandering’ Backfires

For the first time in history, UK voters will have to bring photo-ID to the July 4 general election. The Tory government is behind the electoral rule change but it's likely their voters who will be most limited by it.
British poll cards showing the need for photographic identification — Photo by dmbaker
British poll cards for voting in United Kingdom local and national government elections showing the need for photographic identification — Photo by dmbaker

For the first time, Brits will have to bring a photo-ID to vote in the general election on July 4. The electoral rule change has met criticism from some of Britain’s largest civil rights groups, ‘Liberty’, and ‘Electoral Reform Society’ for disproportionately disadvantaging marginalized groups.

Speculations were already swirling that stricter voting requirements was a ploy by Conservatives to hamper traditional Labour-leaning demographics including lower-income groups, people of color and the homeless. These rumors were all but confirmed by MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative leader of the House of Commons in a speech made at the May 2023 party conference,

“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding that their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections”, Rees-Mogg said, adding that older voters were found to be disproportionately affected by new voter ID requirements.

An evaluation report by the National Election Commission that people aged 85+ were less likely to hold a recognisable photo ID. Nine in ten did so compared to 95-98% of younger age groups. Older voters are also less likely to carry photo-ID on them unlike young people who go to bars and travel more frequently. This is a major issue when considering new data that shows older voters are the least aware of the new ID requirements.

The ‘grey vote’ has, historically, been a reliable demographic for Conservatives, and it’s currently only the 65+ age category where Tories maintain a lead over Labour in the polls (37% v 32%). Older voters are also among the most consistent voters, Yet they are now at risk of being turned away at the polling station. 

Overall, the available data doesn’t provide a definitive conclusion about which Party is most benefited by new voter-ID laws. The spectrum of voters - including unemployed and disabled people - who are less likely to have a valid photo-ID is too diverse. 

What is known is that in the past local elections where ID requirements were put in place, approx. 0.7% of voters were initially turned away for lacking valid ID with 63% returning. Across 230 council elections held in England on 4 May, this amounted to 14,000 voters. Scaled up to a general election, upwards of a million people could be restricted from voting. 

Voter ID rules was implemented to make it harder for people to impersonate other voters at the ballot box, however in most years there are only 30-40 allegations of personation according to Electoral Reform, “This would make the supposed solution at least 10,000 times worse than the problem it is supposed to solve”, the organization stated. 

The deadline to register to vote in the Parliamentary general election on Thursday 4 July is Tuesday 18 June. Voters without a valid photo ID can apply for a free voter ID document, which is known as a Voter Authority Certificate before Wednesday 26 June.

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