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10 August 2020

Liberal Democrats call for urgent review into voter ID amid growing concerns

Exclusive: Liberal Democrat MPs write to Michael Gove over fears that mandatory voter ID will disproportionately impact ethnic minorities. 

By Ailbhe Rea

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an independent assessment into the impact of voter ID, amid growing concerns over the government’s plans to press ahead with new legislation. 

In a letter to Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has responsibility for this policy, Liberal Democrat MPs have called for a review into voter ID to protect “the legitimacy and integrity” of the UK electoral system, expressing their fears, supported by international evidence, that mandatory checks for ID from “will disproportionately impact ethnic minorities” at the polling booth. 

“Safeguarding our democracy should be the priority of any responsible government. People must have faith that any changes to voting procedure are fair and necessary,” said Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Cabinet Office.

“It is scandalous that this government is moving forward with plans for mandatory voter ID without even assessing the risk that black and minority ethnic groups may be disproportionately impacted.

“Ministers must guarantee that an independent equality impact assessment will take place, and we will have the results before the government proceeds.

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“The Liberal Democrats strongly oppose any move which will prevent people participating in our democracy and urge the government to drop this reckless plan.” 

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[see also: Are Boris Johnson’s VoterID proposals an attempt to disenfranchise Labour voters?]

The call follows reports that MPs may have been misled by the government over the impact that mandatory voter ID has on black and minority ethnicity people, after it was revealed that the data cited by a minister to prove the system does not discriminate against BAME voters does not exist.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to introduce voter ID in primary legislation over the course of the parliament. The Cabinet Office said the Electoral Commission’s report had found 99.6 per cent of voters using photographic ID at polling stations were able to cast their vote without a problem.