Lead officer: Rob Noon, LGBT+ Officer 2019/20
During 2018 and 2019 the UK government undertook a trial, to explore its proposal to introduce mandatory photographic ID to be presented at polling stations by voters in order for them to be verified and then able to cast their vote.
NUS, along with a number of other organisations, opposed this proposal, as although its supposed intent was to ‘tackle election fraud and protect democracy’ the evidence shows such schemes actually do the opposite. There also isn’t any evidence of widespread electoral fraud in the UK.
During the 2019 local elections, the Electoral Commission stated that more than 700 people were denied a vote for not having ID in 10 Voter ID pilot areas during the 2019 local elections. If this were made compulsory across the UK, voters could be excluded on an industrial scale. Despite this evidence, prior to the General Election of December 2019 the idea of mandatory voter ID was suggested again. Although the government promised to make free identification cards available from local councils on request, this would introduce another barrier to voting that will put many people off.
Focussing on social media we ran a campaign #ID WILL SILENCE ME, to highlight how the introduction of mandatory voter identification would actually prevent thousands of voters from using their vote in the elections, as the need for identification would have the most significant impact on students, ethnic minority groups and LGBT+ citizens.
Many people in these groups don’t have the traditional means of photo ID, such as a passport or drivers’ licence, and the requirement to obtain such ID could also be problematic for them. Not all can afford such means of identification and there are already significant variations by demographics. Around 40% of people identifying as mixed race and 48% of those identifying as Black do not hold a full driving licence.
Alongside our social media campaign we provided a briefing for students to explain what the proposals would involve and a template letter asking them to write to their MP, encouraging them to oppose any primary legislation proposed by the government in this area.
What we achieved
The government did not pass legislation prior to the General Election 2019 requiring mandatory voter identification and has yet to introduce any similar legislation in the House of Commons at time of writing (October 2020).
The Conservative government’s policy is that Voter ID should be compulsory, so we remain vigilant to any proposed legislative changes that could result in vote suppression.
We will continue to run our annual voter registration campaign, encouraging students to register to vote, and our get out the vote campaigns encouraging students to take part in local elections, devolved-government elections and general elections.
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