Thank you for contacting me in relation to Voter ID and the Boundary legislation.
As you may know, in May the Government piloted discriminatory voter ID requirements which effectively denied people their right to vote. These pilots had been put in place because of allegations of electoral fraud. Electoral fraud is a serious crime and every allegation needs to be investigated fully. However, the proposals laid out by the Government are clearly disproportionate. In 2017 there was 28 allegations of impersonation out of nearly 45 million votes cast. The voter ID pilots were found to be illegal because it was incorrectly imposed by ministerial instruction rather than through Parliament. Schemes that restrict or discourage voting, or that inhibit voters, are beyond the scope of The Representation of the People act 2000.
The Windrush scandal is just one example which has demonstrated that it can be difficult for some communities to provide official documentation, which could prevent legitimate voters from taking part in our democratic process. The Equality and Human Rights Commission and over 40 leading charities and academics warned the Government that voter ID requirements have a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities, older people, transgender people, and people with disabilities.
It is shameful that this Government and the pilot authorities have described the pilots as a “great success”. Figures released by the returning officers showed that at least 340 people were unable to vote in the five pilot areas because of the voter ID requirements. This included people who had voted their entire lives but were denied that rights because of these ill-thought-out trials. However, it is impossible to determine the true impact of voter ID on the wider population based on the pilots in May. All the pilots took place in urban areas, most in the South East. In addition, none of the trial areas had a significantly older, poorer, or ethnically diverse population – groups we know are most likely to be excluded by voter ID.
Data collected by polling station staff did not capture voters who were put off altogether from entering a polling station because they lacked the correct ID. 3.5 million people (7.5% of the electorate) in Great Britain do not have access to any form of photo ID.
In relation to the boundary reviews Labour has repeatedly said that a boundary review is needed ahead of the next General Election. However, we cannot support the Government’s undemocratic proposals, which seek to strengthen the power of the executive at the expense of backbenchers, and ignore the voices of over two million voters.
Cutting the numbers of MPs by 50 as we prepare to leave the European Union is yet another power grab by this Government. With no plans to reduce the number of Ministers it will weaken the role of Parliament at the very time when Parliament is meant to be taking back control.
Clearly the political context has changed significantly since these flawed proposals were first agreed under David Cameron. Now with the workload of MPs set to rise after Brexit, with thousands of statutory instruments expected to come through Parliament, it would be ludicrous to go ahead with these boundary changes.
Labour is ready to work with all political parties to agree an accelerated timetable for a new review that benefits our democracy, not just the Conservative Party.