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Newbury MP, Laura Farris, backs Government plans for mandatory photo ID for voters

The MP for Newbury has strongly defended Government plans to introduce mandatory photo ID in order to vote.

Conservative Laura Farris portrayed the proposal as one which would strengthen election integrity.

Mrs Farris said: “The introduction of a requirement to provide identification at the polling station is something that, in principle, I support for three reasons.

Laura Farris Picture by Phil Cannings (46649742)
Laura Farris Picture by Phil Cannings (46649742)

“First of all, I agree with the Government that current measures are too loose. Currently an individual only needs to walk into a polling station, state their name to someone who does not know them, go into the booth and cast a ballot.

“In some parts of the country where voter turnout is very low, particularly for local elections, there is a significant risk that an individual could cast their ballot in the name of someone else, knowing that it is unlikely that that person would not already have voted, or have any intention to do so.

“Second, I do not think that a requirement to show ID would be intrusive or restrict our democratic freedoms. We live in a world where we must show a form of ID in many different situations, such as collecting a parcel from the Post Office. I therefore do not believe it is unreasonable that for something as serious and fundamental as voting, we have a similar requirement also. Moreover, the Government has made it clear that no eligible person would be prevented from voting under such proposals, with a free local ‘Voter Card’ being made available from local authorities in the absence of photographic ID.

“Finally, producing ID at the polling station has been a requirement in Northern Ireland since 2002, and the Conservative Party’s 2019 Manifesto committed to bringing the rest of the UK in line with this. These measures have not only reduced incidences of voter fraud in Northern Ireland, but also increased turnout at elections – it has enhanced, not harmed the democratic process there.

"Furthermore, in 2019, across the remainder of Great Britain, the Electoral Commission carried out a pilot for the use of voter ID at polling stations and found that ‘there were no significant issues in any pilot area with the administration of the election’ and ‘the experience of taking part in the pilot scheme appears to have had a positive impact on people’s perception of the security of the polling station process’.

“In all, I reject the idea that the proposals are in any way a threat of affront to the UK’s democratic process. On the contrary, I believe that the Government’s proposals safeguard the integrity of elections in the UK whilst successfully balancing the need to ensure that no voter is excluded by such measures.”

The Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 created an Identity Card for voters without an acceptable form of ID.

The claim that voter turnout has increased in Northern Ireland after the law has been deemed inaccurate.

According to the House of Commons Library UK election statistics, turnout in both Parliamentary Elections and Assembly Elections has fluctuated, with the highest turnouts recorded prior to the passage of the ID law.

The highest turnout in a general election in Northern Ireland this century was in 2001, which saw controversial figures Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley square off.

Turnout in UK General Elections in Northern Ireland:

2001 – 68%

2005 – 62.9%

2010 – 57.6%

2015 – 58.1%

2017 – 65.4%

2017 – 61.8%

For the Northern Ireland Assembly the highest turnout was recorded in 1998. The election was held after the Good Friday Agreement of that year, which generally led to the end of violence between Irish nationalists and unionists.

Turnout at Northern Ireland Assembly elections:

1998 – 68.7%

2003 – 64.0%

2007 – 62.3%

2011 – 54.7%

2016 – 54.2%

2017 – 64.0%

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