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“Yer’ll need inoculations – and a passpor’!”, so goes that hoary leg-pull with which caulkheads tease prospective visitors to the Isle of Wight.
I’m not gonna comment on whether you need a vaccination – that’s last year’s controversy (depending on which side of David Icke you sit). But I am going to write about the spurious need for a passport when on internal business in this country – specifically when attempting to enter a polling booth.
While the media distracts us with bread and circuses, the government has slid through legislation which, from 4 May 2023, requires voters in England to show photo ID to vote at polling stations in some elections.
I’m not saying that Ryde North East is a ward where everyone knows your name, but last time I went to cast my vote, I was personally greeted by two opposing candidates – both beaming with premature election triumph. The poll clerk was a long-standing colleague, and my solicitor was the presiding officer, so I’d argue the need to have photo identification was a bit moot in those particular circumstances.
Regardless, why this sudden requirement for our verified voting face? Of all the Tory government’s sidelined manifesto promises, the pledge to “protect the integrity of our democracy by introducing identification to vote at polling stations” is one they have puzzlingly decided to honour.
Despite evidence to the contrary, ministers want us to believe that electoral fraud is a serious concern; hence the requirement for voters to prove who we are – and your dog-eared Blockbuster video club card will not cut it.
Acceptable forms of ID are out of the reach of many of the electorate, either through cost (you can wave goodbye to £82.50 or more for a passport), or the fact that they have not attained the venerable age or sanctioned disability at which they can get an older person’s bus pass, Blue Badge, 60+ Oyster card or Freedom Pass.
An estimated two million UK adults currently lack the stipulated photo ID; in those cases they can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate. Nonetheless, opponents have called this legislative change unnecessary and discriminatory. A side-effect could be to potentially exclude swathes of (non-Tory) voters from the democratic process – which cynics might consider to be the hidden agenda. For example, if you are under sixty, your bus pass or Oyster card won’t count.
The Electoral Commission says that the UK has low levels of proven electoral fraud, with no evidence of large-scale misrepresentation. Although interestingly, just over half of all reported cases of election fraud in 2021 were campaigning offences. As for fraudulent activity committed while in ministerial office, well, you can draw your own conclusions about who are the real swindlers in our democratic process.
But there is a sunlit upland: luckily you don’t need photo ID to vote by post. Get your application into the council asap, return your completed ballot before the deadline, and free-up election Thursday – though remember, whichever way you vote, the government always wins.