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Mid Sussex Voter ID Trial tries to fix a problem that doesn’t exist

November 11, 2018 5:00 AM

Robert Eggleston, Mid Sussex PPCFor the first time ever, Mid Sussex residents will have to produce their polling cards or a verifiable ID at polling stations to cast their vote. Mid Sussex has volunteered to take part in a pilot scheme which, if successful, could see this scheme rolled out across mainland UK. The move follows a Conservative government report which claims such moves are necessary to prevent voter ID fraud.

But Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate, Robert Eggleston, says that, "We must ensure that any full roll out of a voter ID does not lead to any limitations on an individual's right to vote."

Robert says, "No-one, least of all me wants any cheating at the ballot box so you may say that this trial doesn't seem unreasonable as other countries, including Northern Ireland, insist upon ID before you can vote. Surely people can do the same when voting here? But here's the thing: people sometimes do forget to bring polling cards with them when they come to vote and not everyone in Mid Sussex has a driving licence or a passport as back-up photo ID. Should voters be penalised if they forget their polling card or lack a photo ID? In my view, they shouldn't. It is, therefore, going to take a lot of publicity to make voters aware of this new requirement if we are to avoid restricting a minority from their right to vote.

The evidence suggests that voter ID fraud in the UK doesn't really exist on any meaningful level: in the whole of 2017 there were only 3 criminal convictions for voting fraud and the overwhelming majority of allegations of voting fraud led to no action being taken by the Police (source: Electoral Commission). I would question whether this trial is even necessary."

Robert continued, "The right to vote is enshrined in the Human Rights Act. We tamper with that at our peril. Even if this trial only deters a small percentage of people from voting, you have to question whether this is something a mature democracy like ours needs to introduce. Voter turnout in Mid Sussex in the 2017 local elections was between 27% and 44%. We should be trying to find ways of making voting easier not harder. Mid Sussex District Council already rejects some postal vote ballots, without any right of appeal, so we must be very careful about introducing any permanent Voter ID scheme which could lead to further restrictions on voting.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats will do all we can to publicise this trial so that voters are aware of the requirements in May 2019. But I have concerns about implementing a nationwide scheme.

If you make it harder to vote then it will put some people off. That decline is concentrated in the least well-off and marginalised pockets of society. Put it another way, these are the very people who need the most help from local politics so must ensure that they are not disenfranchised."