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Boris Johnson accused of 'trying to rig next election' with controversial voter ID scheme

3 min read

Boris Johnson has sparked a furious backlash after vowing to push ahead with a new voter ID scheme despite accusations the plans will disenfranchise tens of thousands of people.

Under the "electoral integrity" proposals revealed in the Queen's Speech, voters will be forced to provide photographic ID at polling stations before being allowed to cast their ballot.

Voters who do not possess a passport or driver's license will be able to apply, free of charge, for a "local electoral identity document".

But the plans have been met with anger from campaigners and opposition MPs who have accused the Government of attempting to "suppress turnout" because voters from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have the required documentation.

Cat Smith MP, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, said: “Voter ID is a blatant attempt by the Tories to rig the result of the next general election.

“We will not allow the Tories to shut down our democracy by making it harder for people to vote."

It comes after trials carried out in ten council wards during May's local elections saw almost 2000 people denied their ballot paper due to a lack of correct documentation.

According to figures from the Electoral Commission, 740 of those individuals failed to later return to polling stations and were denied the opportunity to vote.

'False claims of voter fraud'

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), said the measures were "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

"When millions of people lack ID, these mooted plans risk raising the drawbridge to huge numbers of marginalised voters - including many elderly and BAME voters," he said.

"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."

According to ERS analysis, the scheme could cost an estimated £20m to enforce at each election.

Mr Hughes added: "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.

“The government have been left with only a dog whistle to justify this ‘show-your’-papers policy, with no evidence of widespread impersonation."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake accused the Prime Minister of using "false claims" of voter fraud in a bid to "suppress turnout".

“The move by the Government to make voter ID compulsory is a thinly-veiled attempt to rig the results of future elections. We know from the pilot back in 2018 that voter fraud was inconsequential, whilst what the pilot did do was turn away a disproportionate number of vulnerable voters," he said.

"Boris Johnson is clearly taking a leaf out of Trump's playbook by using false claims about voter fraud to suppress turnout.

He added: “The trial was deemed a waste of time and the public’s money, and this roll-out will be no different. The Conservative Government have already showed disdain for our democracy and this move is simply further confirmation of that.

“Rather than electioneering by making it harder to vote, the Conservative Government should be focusing on ways to encourage democratic participation, such as through extending voting rights to 16 year olds.”

Elsewehere, the legislation would also ban party campaigners from handling postal votes as well as requiring postal voters to re-apply every three years.

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