Plans to introduce photo ID for voting ‘are about voter suppression’, says Labour MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP also says that the move will disproportionately affect those from underrepresented and marginalised communities.

Polling Station

The government’s plans to introduce compulsory photo ID at elections are nothing more than voter suppression, aimed at those who are less likely to vote Tory, a Labour MP has said.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham, has been an outspoken opponent of the move which would see voters asked to produce photo ID to vote in future general elections. The measures were outlined as part of this week’s Queen’s speech. The government says they are designed to tackle voter fraud.

Critics however have hit out at the proposals, saying the move will disproportionately affect those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as well as those who are trans, disabled or poor.

Ribeiro-Addy says there were only six cases of voter fraud at the last election and that the move could disenfranchise already marginalized groups.

She told LFF: “No one believes that any sort of voter fraud should exist but do the six cases really warrant disenfranchising potentially millions of voters?

“The government’s own statistics show that people from BAME communities, disadvantaged communities and more generally working-class communities are less likely to have photo ID, as well as the problems this might cause for trans people.

“It’s just their way of voter suppression.”

She added that she doesn’t believe the Tory government cares if less people vote and the people that are more likely to be affected by this are less likely to vote Tory.

Ribeiro-Addy called on more people to come together to oppose the measures which she described as an attempt to subvert democracy.

“I think we need to keep pushing on it as we have done with other really disgraceful things that the government are trying to put through like the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and just hold firm,” she said.

“This is not the first time the government have had to do a U-turn and if we keep pushing this I believe we can win.

“They cannot subvert democracy this way and disenfranchise people who are legitimately meant to be able to vote in this country.”

According to the government’s own figures, almost a million voters don’t have photo identification. The same survey established that nearly 40% of people without photo ID said the new policy would make voting difficult.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson insisted the move to introduce photo ID for elections was about combatting fraud.

They said: “In our current electoral system, there is inexcusable potential for someone to cast another’s vote at the polling station. Stealing someone’s vote is stealing their voice and that is  why we are bringing forward legislation to stamp out the potential for fraud.

Newly published research, which draws upon the most comprehensive data available to date, shows that 99% of ethnic minorities had a form of identification that would be accepted under our proposals, as did 98% of people who identify as white. 

“Legislation will make clear that local authorities must provide a Voter Card free of charge to the small minority that don’t have an accepted form of identification, and we will work with the electoral sector and make the new requirements clear to the public in advance of elections.”

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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