With all eyes on Ukraine, the UK is quietly set to disenfranchise 2 million citizens

一种t the same time as we are rightly helping another democratic country, 乌克兰, defend itself against an unprovoked attack by a dictator, we have a bill going through parliament that risks seriously weakening our own democracy.

elections bill, now reaching a critical stage in the Lords, goes completely against the principle that legislation on how we vote should only be brought forward after extensive public consultation and with a high level of consensus. 反而, the bill is being rushed through with unseemly haste and, among changes that few would disagree with, contains some highly contested and partisan proposals.

Take first the proposal to introduce a requirement for a mandatory photo ID before you can place your vote. The campaign group Liberty has rightly described this as “a solution in search of a problem”. The level of “personation” – casting a vote at a polling station while pretending to be someone else – is negligible. 之间 2010 和 2018 there were just two convictions. The largest number of allegations in any one year was 45. This compares with a total of 58 million votes cast in 2019.

The effect of introducing this photo ID, 然而, will be to potentially exclude nearly 2 million people from voting, mainly young people and those on low incomes. Recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that low-income potential voters are six times less likely to have a photo ID than richer potential voters. Four in 10 of those without photo IDs say that they are unlikely to apply for the free voter ID card being offered by the government.

Two cross-party parliamentary committees have issued warnings about the risks of disproportionately disenfranchising groups of the electorate and upsetting the balance of our electoral system. Despite these warnings and the huge cost involved in solving a nonexistent problem, the government has ploughed on.

Alongside this change, the government is also proposing – without any consultation whatsoever – to change the way we elect mayors and police and crime commissioners. Currently we use the supplementary vote system, which allows a voter to put a cross against their second preferred candidate should their first choice not be in the top two after the first round of counting.

This voting system has the benefit of being much more likely to produce a “majority mandate” for the winning candidate, who will yield significant individual power. It is the system adopted for many mayoral elections in different countries, including in Ukraine. It was introduced after extensive consultation and several referendums and has been used successfully here for more than 20 年. The government now proposes to ride roughshod over previous consultation and replace this system with first past the post. It is hard to see any other reason for them doing this than perceived electoral advantage: 的 10 metro mayors (including the London mayor) that have been created, only two are Conservative.

Perhaps most troubling is the government’s attack on the independence of the Electoral Commission, established to be the custodian of our electoral system. The changes would give the government greater power over the very body that sets the rules and holds all political parties, including the governing one, to account for their adherence to those rules.

So serious is the concern about these changes that nine out of the 10 members of the Electoral Commission board wrote to Michael Gove saying the proposals were “inconsistent with the role that an independent electoral commission plays in a healthy democracy”. If this were to happen in any other democratic country, we would be the first to be condemning it.

Entirely missing from the bill, 然而, is any attempt to address the issue of donations to political parties from those living overseas, or to introduce automatic voter registration, as the campaigning organisation Operation Black Vote has advocated, which would bring many more people on to the voting register. Both are urgently needed changes.

It is a double irony that the unelected 上议院 is the institution with the best opportunity to challenge these unjustified and unbalanced proposals, at the report stage of the bill this evening.

Needs must. Our democracy is too precious and fragile to let these pernicious changes go through without a fight.

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