Tory proposals which would make it mandatory for first-time voters to show photo ID have been blasted by civil rights campaigners.
Opponents believe that the plans slipped out by the UK government during the Covid pandemic crisis will make it more difficult for marginal groups, including the poor and homeless, to engage in the democratic process.
Civil liberty groups and organisations have condemned the Tory proposal, stating there is “no justification” for the proposal, and warning that underepresented and marginalised communities in politics will be left feeling disenfranchised.
It currently costs £75.50 to renew or replace a passport if you apply online or £85 if you fill in a paper form, and it can take up to ten weeks before a person receives their new passport.
A provisional photo driving license will set you back £34 if you apply online or £43 if you submit a postal registration.
It is believed that those without a photo ID will be allowed to apply for an approved form of identification through their local council, but this would mean taking extra steps beyond registering to vote before polling day and it isn’t clear if this would incur a cost to the registrant.
It has also been reported that the plans would have a much more detrimental impact on Labour voters that those who typically vote Tory, leading to accusations that the Tories are attempting to limit dessenting voices.
Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty, said: “The Government’s own findings show our current voting system is safe and secure.
“As there is no justification for this threat to the right to vote, it feels like an opportunistic attack on the rights of some of the most marginalised people in society, a classic example of ruling through division and distrust.”
The Electoral Reform Society has also called for the proposal to be scrapped.
Dr Jess Garland, director of policy, said: “Rather than inventing problems, the Government should focus on the real issues in politics – including the nine million people missing from the electoral roll, and the glaring loopholes in our lobbying laws.
“At a cost of up to £20m per election, mandatory ID is an expensive distraction and the wrong priority right now.
“These proposals should be dropped before they damage political equality in the UK.
“Groups representing millions of people – from homelessness charities, pensioners’ groups, LGBT+ campaigners and civil liberties activists – are sounding the alarm about these plans.
“We urge ministers to listen.”
Defending the proposal, Chloe Smith, Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, said: “Stealing someone’s vote is stealing their voice.
“Fraud, and the intent to intimidate or coerce a voter, are crimes. So this government is stamping out the space for such damage to take place in our elections.”
UPDATE: The UK government has said that people who do not currently hold photo identification will be able to ask for free photo ID from their local council.