Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Voter ID: voter suppression or vote integrity?

May 5, 2023

There’s a lot of discussion currently about voter ID in the UK. This has been used for elections in Northern Ireland for some time, but has just been introduced in England, Wales and Scotland.

The first elections in which this comes into force were the English local council elections on May 4th (Star Wars Day) 2023. Yesterday, as I write this.

In the UK it’s clearly a solution in search of a problem. According to the Electoral Commission, in 2019, the year of the last general elections, there was one prosecution for personation, and one police caution for the same. There were three other convictions and one other caution, but they were for different offences which wouldn’t be addressed by voter ID. On this basis there’s no risk to the integrity of elections in the UK which voter ID can resolve.

There have been some reported issues of significant voting fraud in the UK, but those were to do with postal votes. Examples include Birmingham in 2004 and Peterborough in 2019. But you still don’t need to prove who you are to obtain a postal vote – indeed one way of voting if you don’t have suitable photo ID is to apply in advance for a postal vote which you can hand in at the polling station on the day! You can also apply for a proxy vote up until 5pm on election day; your proxy has to have photo ID but you don’t.

Example citizencard ID card for Lily Steward
Example of suitable voter ID

There is a widespread view that the Conservative government is introducing voter ID as a means of suppressing the votes of sections of the population who are likely to vote against them. The government’s own estimate is that 2 million people in the UK (population 68m) don’t have suitable photo ID. Many of these may be less likely to vote Conservative. To confirm this suspicion you only have to look at the list of valid IDs. A senior citizen’s bus pass (available to 60 year olds in London and 66 years olds elsewere) is valid ID, but an 18+ bus pass isn’t. As far as I can see the requirements to obtain such passes are similarly rigorous. Also student ID isn’t valid.

However the Tories may be shooting themselves in the foot, as many older people, particularly the over 80s, will have given up driving, so won’t have a driving license, and can’t get travel insurance, so may have given up their passport. These are the two most common forms of ID. So a proportion of the cohort most likely to vote Tory may also be turned away at the polling station for not having suitable ID.

We are yet to see how effective this was at suppressing votes – there were certainly people turned away unable to vote yesterday, both for not having suitable ID and for not resembling the photo on the ID sufficiently. But voter suppression works only where the result is likely to be close – and at the moment the Tories are being annihilated at the polls, so it’s unlikely to have had any influence on any results yesterday.

I’m not against requiring voter ID in principle; it is likely to improve the integrity of, and elector trust in, elections and election results. However in the majority of countries which require voter ID, the population already has ID cards issued to all adults. Then it’s clear that requiring voter ID isn’t suppressing votes, as all eligible voters already have suitable ID. This government is, as usual, doing things arse-backwards by introducing the requirement for voter ID before issuing ID cards.

The only good news is that the Tories introduced voter ID before the English local elections – the publicity surrounding it combined with many people’s actual experience of being turned away may increase the awareness of this requirement before the next general election.

National ID cards

There have been efforts to introduce ID cards in the UK before, most recently under the Labour government in which David Blunkett was Home Secretary, and it’s been the Tory party which has seen them off. Their usual response is about privacy being compromised and that it’s just not British to demand people carry their ID at all times.

Example of possible UK national ID card, carrying the image of David Blunkett, Labour Home Secretary at the time it was suggested.
David Blunkett’s example ID card

However almost every EU country (with the notable exception of Denmark) issues national ID cards.

An example of a German national ID card
Example of German ID card

Frankly, I doubt many people would trust the present UK government not to do something unpleasant with our ID card data, such as sell it to a private company, or give the police powers to demand to see your ID for no valid reason.

However if the government is really serious about managing illegal immigration (that subject is for another post) they would make their task a lot easier if all UK citizens and residents had an ID card. Then anyone without one would either be a tourist or an illegal immigrant. The government of the day would need to introduce much tighter privacy controls on the data if it were to successfully introduce national ID cards, but they would solve a lot of problems.

I have Portuguese residence, so I have a Portuguese Residence card. This also has my fiscal number (equivalent of my National Insurance number) and my health number (equivalent of my NHS number) and a space for my social security number, on the back. All my government issued ID numbers are in a single place, on a card I carry with me all the time.

Really handy.

Example of Portuguese residence ID card

New reg’s make cyclists less visible

July 15, 2010

I’ve been reading about the EU legislation that’s going to make it compulsory for cars to drive with their headlights (or day-running lights) on all the time.

And as a cyclist, it doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

From my perspective, cars are very visible. They tend to be large, shiny and moving – which is what makes them stand out to the human eye. Cyclists tend to be smaller, not shiny and not moving very fast. Pedestrians and other motorists rarely look for cyclists anyway.

So where’s the logic in making the vehicles that are already highly visible even more so, when by doing so you make the more vulnerable road users less visible (by comparison) and therefore even more vulnerable…