15th November 2019
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Voter ID scheme an obstacle to democracy, says Carmichael

The Westminster government should ditch plans to introduce a compulsory voter ID scheme, according to MP Alistair Carmichael.

Mr Carmichael says there is no need for the proposed law, laid out in Monday’s Queen’s Speech.

Several organisations have criticised it saying it would make it harder for “marginalised groups to vote”.

Alistair Carmichael. – “We should continue to encourage higher voting rates, not throw obstacles in the way.”

Orkney and Shetland MP Mr Carmichael said: “This is a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The idea that we need a compulsory voter ID system to prevent fraud is like saying we need a new law against hunting unicorns. It is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

“Still worse, the so-called solution creates a new problem, by harming our democratic rights.

“Not everyone has a passport or drivers’ licence and elderly voters especially will not appreciate the complication that this would add to what should be a simple act of civic engagement.”

He argued that the high turnout in August’s Holyrood by-election showed that the community valued its democratic rights and there was no need for a voter ID scheme.

“We should continue to encourage higher voting rates, not throw obstacles in the way. The government should think again.”

Chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Darren Hughes is among critics of the “electoral integrity” proposals that would require voters to show photographic ID at polling stations. Those without a passport or drivers’ licence would be able to apply for a free “local electoral identity document”.

But Mr Hughes said: “When millions of people lack ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters – including many elderly and BAME [black and minority ethnic] voters.”

The ERS estimates the scheme would cost £20m at each national election and Mr Hughes believes there are bigger threats to democracy that should be tackled first.

“The government have sat on their hands in the face of the actual threats to electoral integrity: anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donations and disinformation. Instead of taking on the real issue, they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“Make no mistake – these plans will leave tens of thousands of legitimate voters voiceless. Ministers should focus on combating the real threats to our democracy, rather than suppressing voters’ rights.

About Adam Civico

The Shetland Times editor since October 2012. Born and bred in South Yorkshire, before moving to Shetland I was assistant editor at the Barnsley Chronicle, where my journalism career began. When not editing The Shetland Times I can be found walking or (occasionally) running, enjoying good food, or trying to find the latest Sheffield Wednesday result. Contact me with your news and views about Shetland – a.civico@shetlandtimes.co.uk, on Twitter @adamcivico or telephone 01595 746715.

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4 comments

  1. John M Scott

    I am shocked! Yes, shocked! By Alistair Carmichael‘s lack of understanding on why this piece of legislation has been put forward.

    The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in Europe, and in fact the world, that doesn’t require some form of identification when an election is taking place.

    However, in light of massive electoral fraud in the West Midlands and the South East of England, particularly in local government elections, the current administration has decided to tighten up the rules; it is long overdue.

    Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Greece all require either a national ID card or a utility bill or bank statement as proof of residency; which, especially in the case of Greece, have been necessary. Australia and Israel, and certain states within America have also tightened up the rules due to similar issues with fraud.

    None of the above measures have prevented honest citizens from exercising their democratic rights.

    Reply
    • Martin Tregonning

      Just to clarify some of the facts:
      Voter ID is not required in Australia and voter fraud is not a significant problem there.
      I do not have personal knowledge of the other countries mentioned above, although I do know that voter ID was one of the measures used to disenfranchise African-Americans is the USA prior to the Civil Rights Act.
      The UK remains a country with low levels of voter fraud and the majority of the recent alleged voter fraud in the Midlands related to postal and proxy votes which voter ID at the ballot box will do nothing to solve.

      Reply
  2. David Anderson

    Carmichael an obstacle to democracy , says Anderson.

    Reply
  3. Ali Inkster

    “The government have sat on their hands in the face of the actual threats to electoral integrity: anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donations and disinformation. Instead of taking on the real issue, they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

    It has been shown that the Russian interference in the referendum amounted to a spend of $14 on facebook adds. where as in any number of constituencies the labour party in particular have committed voter fraud. Darren Hughes would do better to check actual facts and Adam should hold interviewees to account

    Reply

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