Apr 29 2023


As the first elections in mainland Britain to require voter ID approach, James Meek considers how we got to this point:

Suspicion that the government is trying to use voter ID to skew results the Conservatives’ way has been fed by the evident bias in the list of acceptable photo ID towards the elderly and away from the young. […] In the absence of a plausible explanation, the list of acceptable ID seems to be a clumsy effort to favour the older, Conservative-tending voter at the expense of the younger and more Labour-inclined. What stands out about the voter ID saga as a whole, however, is not its repressive aspect but its shoddiness, its carelessness.

[Emphasis added]

It’ll be interesting to see how much of the fall-out from this week’s council elections will focus upon the notion that folks who didn’t already have photo ID and might have needed a free Voter Authority Certificate but didn’t get one1 were exercising their inalienable right as a British citizen not to cast a vote. That’s an argument that government ministers have been making in the run-up to this weeks elections, but it’ll be a trickier to make that stick if there are lots of stories about voters who turned up at their polling station to vote and had to be turned away.2

Perhaps the government are hoping that they’ll be saved by relatively low turnout in local elections and the important thing is that the voter ID requirement survives to help them get through the next General Election.3

I trust that reporting on the fallout of voter ID requirements at the council elections will go out of it’s way to emphasise the age of those affected as much as it will their ethnic background. If the Conservatives see plenty of evidence that their core vote (over-60s) was affected by the voter ID requirement perhaps their self-interest will lead them to a realisation that requiring voter ID to vote wasn’t such a great idea.

  1. Likely the less affluent and less organised, at whichever end of the age range they stand. My experience of applying to my local council for a Voter Authority Certificate went smoothly, but I was aware of the prospect that I’d need to apply for whatever voter ID documentation my local council would be making available. I was looking out for information about the new process. Once I’d read at least two separate articles about the new arrangements and read an email from the Electoral Reform Society about them, I both had Internet access and was comfortable with using my iPad Mini on that Saturday morning to snap a photo, pop online and fill in a form on a web page and receive emails in response to my application. Not every potential voter was (or is) in that position. VAC.jpg↩︎

  2. Or will we be told that they’re fake would-be voters, paid to turn up without voter ID by George Soros? I realise that sort of argument sounds like something a Donald Trump supporter speaking on Fox News would make, but the British media in the age of Nigel Farage and GB News will be happy to repurpose such arguments for the British market.↩︎

  3. Short-termism being the default mode of this government.↩︎