Voter ID plans are 'damaging for all of us who believe in democracy,' says election lawyer

10 May 2021, 15:19

Voter ID plans are 'damaging for all of us who believe in democracy'

By Fiona Jones

A mandatory voter ID law is 'damaging for all of us who believe in democracy,' says election lawyer Sarah Sackman, ahead of the expected announcement in the Queen's speech.

The Queen’s Speech tomorrow is expected to include the introduction of a controversial measure aimed at tackling voter fraud, whereby voters will be required to bring photo ID to the polls in order to cast their vote.

The rule will apply in UK general elections, local council elections in England, and police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales.

The proposals, which are expected to be announced on Tuesday, will also include tighter rules on voting and voter intimidation, and limits on the number of postal votes a person can hand in at a polling station on behalf of others

Shelagh Fogarty posited to barrister and election lawyer Sarah Sackman that the measures will advantage one political party over another.

Ms Sackman responded, "I think it's damaging for all of us who believe in democracy. I don't think it's about one side or another."

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"It's certainly true that those who disproportionately lack photo ID tend to be from marginalised so far as that aligns with particular parties, some may be thought to be in a particular advantage.

"We're all disadvantaged at the end of the day by these sorts of measures which undermine trust in our democracy."

Ms Sackman said marginalised groups could include people of colour, older voters and disabled voters.

The barrister continued, "We don't want to see Governments of any hue making it harder for people to vote. All of us must want to see voting made easier, to see more people voting, to see Governments reaching out to those marginalised groups.

"Whether it's Labour, Conservative or some other political party that happens to be in charge, we don't want to see them ignoring the votes of vulnerable groups and that's precisely what these measures will do."

Shelagh asked why some members of marginalised groups are not holders of photo ID, citing passports, driver's licenses, student ID, Freedom Passes and work photo ID.

Ms Sackman responded: "If you cast your mind back to something like the Windrush scandal, we saw precisely how difficult it is for certain groups to access identity documents through absolutely no fault of their own.

"The examples you give of photo ID where that appears in a passport or in a driver's licence are really good ones. It may strike us some of us as odd if we're holders of those types of ID but...11 million citizens of this country don't have a passport or a driver's licence."

There has never been this demand on voters in British history, Sarah Sackman said and questioned why this country should start now.

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