Rania Ramli calls on students across the UK to tweet at their MP using #NotoVoterID asking the government to scrap their plans to implement Voter ID checks.
The government’s plan to enforce voter ID at polling stations is just the latest in a wave of recent scandals, exposing the problems that many of those from an ethnic minority still face. These proposals are not only set to make it harder and more expensive to vote, they also mean that a significant group of those who already face discrimination will be completely disenfranchised.
The new plans being trialed in five local authorities on May 3rd, mean that people will be asked for documentation proving their identity, such as a passport or driving licence, before being allowed to vote. Currently there are no such checks in place.
The government has attempted to justify this. As they recover from public anger over the Windrush scandal, the argument being offered is that this change addresses the problem of voter fraud. This is despite the fact that out of the 45 million votes cast last year, the Electoral Commission found just 28 allegations of this, only one of which has resulted in a conviction.
Even if the proposals were to have a minute positive impact, this is clearly outweighed by the extent to which they will discriminate against those from an ethnic minority.
The Windrush scandal showed us that many immigrants, even those who are British citizens, do not have the documents that would be needed. The same is true of those from a low-income background, a group within which BAME people are disproportionately represented. A passport and driving licence both cost money, making them inaccessible to to many people. In making voter ID a necessity, this government are effectively charging people for the right to vote, excluding those who cannot afford identification.
In pushing forward with the change, the government is excluding numerous ethnic minority communities from being able to cast a vote.
This makes an existing problem worse. Organisations such as Voice4Change and Operation Black Vote have been working tirelessly to increase participation rates in BAME communities – enforcing ID checks will undo the progress they and others have made.
Jeremy Corbyn rightly highlighted that this is yet another example of the ‘hostile environment’ that May and her government seem determined to create.
British society is based on the principle of universal suffrage. Losing this means we lose our status as a diverse, inclusive and progressive nation. The government can try to argue that this is a justified solution to an existing problem but a ‘solution’ that threatens the foundations of British democracy is simply not good enough.
We all have a role to play in standing up for equality and against discrimination, which is why I’m asking you to join me in calling for an end to this government’s plans.
Please tweet your MP using the hashtag #NotoVoterID and ask them to scrap the plans.