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”.
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.