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Electoral Integrity Bill: voter protection or voter suppression?

25 May 2021

The Joint Committee on Human Rights holds an oral evidence session examining the Legislative Scrutiny of the Electoral Integrity Bill

Witnesses

Wednesday 26 May 2021, virtual meeting

At 3.00pm

Panel two

  • Professor Toby James, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of East Anglia
  • Dr Jessica Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society
  • Baron Woolley of Woodford, Director of Operation Black Vote (OBV)

Panel two

  • Bob Posner, Chief Executive, Electoral Commission
  • Phil Thompson, Head of Research, Electoral Commission

The 2021 Queen’s Speech confirmed that an Electoral Integrity Bill is to be introduced in this session of Parliament and is expected to include clauses to require identification to vote in a polling station, as already required in Northern Ireland.

The plans have raised concerns that forcing voters to provide ID will effectively disenfranchise different groups of people if the documentation required is too difficult for some to obtain. The Government has previously said that a broad range of documents already in use could be accepted for Voter ID. Although there are few details so far, there is also the prospect of a free, local Voter Card scheme, available from local authorities.

In its 2020 report on Black People, Racism and Human Rights the Joint Committee on Human Rights noted the potentially racial discriminatory impact of the Government proposals to require a form of photographic ID in UK Parliamentary elections in Great Britain and local elections in England.

The Chair of the Joint Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said:

“The right to vote is fundamental and should be equally available to all. Currently you do not need any form of identification to vote as long as your name appears on the electoral register. The incidence of voter fraud is low.

“We know from our 2020 report on Black People, Racism and Human Rights that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are likely to be disproportionately represented amongst those who do not have certain types of photographic ID. Other groups may also be disproportionately effected such as the young, older people and those with certain disabilities.

“We are considering the human rights implications of these Government proposals. We will also consider voter ID systems in other countries and the lessons that can be learned from abroad.”

Further information

Image: PA