BME groups sound alarm over ‘US style voter suppression’ through UK mandatory ID plans

BME organisations and democracy campaigners are warning that government plans to force all voters to show ID at the ballot box risk locking black and ethnic minority people out of democracy. Voter ID was recently trialled in the 2019 local elections, where concerns were raised by the Electoral Commission that the policy may disproportionately impact minority communities.

There was just one proven case of ‘personation’ fraud in the whole of the UK in 2019 – while 1,000 people have been denied a vote (those who were turned away and did not return) at the voter ID pilots that have taken place in the run up to the national roll-out. This is while only 52% of black people hold a full driving licence – a key form of photo ID – compared to 76% of white people.

In an intervention last week, the Runnymede Trust, Hope Not Hate, the Race Equality Foundation, Electoral Reform Society, and Southall Black Sisters said government policy amounted to the “importing of US-style voter suppression to the UK”.

The statement from BME groups and the ERS, published in the Independent, comes after Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith confirmed the government intends to push ahead with the plans. The government intends to bring in mandatory ID in time for the next General Election. Dr Zubaida Haque, Interim Director, The Runnymede Trust, Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society, Pragna Patel – Director, Southall Black Sisters, and Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO, Race Equality Foundation said that:

"While ministers have promised a free identification card from local councils on advanced request, this represents another barrier to voting that will put many off – with a postcode lottery in terms of how easy the cards are to acquire in each of the 300+ councils of the UK.

The Windrush scandal showed what can happen when millions of people who lack ID are shut out by government. We must not risk a rolling Windrush scandal here, with BME and marginalised groups locked out of our democracy. Ministers must think again."