Tories trying far right US tactics on voter suppression

Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat spokesperson on political reform, Alistair Carmichael, has today warned of the risk to democratic participation from the Conservatives imitating right wing voter suppression policies from the United States. Speaking at Electoral Commission Questions in the House of Commons Mr Carmichael asked how many actual fraudulent votes were expected to be blocked by new voter ID restrictions, and raised the growing concerns in the US around intentional blocking of minority voters.

Responding for the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, Christian Matheson MP said:

“The Commission has made no detailed assessment of the number of fraudulent votes that could be prevented as a result of the government’s policy to introduce voter ID requirements. While levels of reported electoral fraud in the UK are consistently low, they do vary and there is no reliable methodology for forecasting instances of electoral fraud.”

Responding, Mr Carmichael asked:

“We know that previous work by the Commission has shown that voter impersonation is a very rare occurrence in this country. We also know from the other side of the Atlantic that schemes there involving the production of identification at polling stations have suppressed turnout. Will that experience be taken into account by the Commission in formulating further advice for the government in respect of their proposed legislation?”

Mr Matheson added:

“He raises an interesting point. Honourable members will have seen at both at state and federal level [in the United States] there are discussions at the moment over electoral law. We may have lessons to learn from fellow democratic countries and I will pass that recommendation on to the commission for their consideration.”

Reacting after the exchange Mr Carmichael said:

“Conservatives in the United States appear to have decided that if they cannot win someone’s vote then they need to stop that person from voting. Now the Tories here are trying the same tactics. Putting barriers between voters and their rights – for no discernible reason other than because they might vote the “wrong” way – is an affront to democracy. We need real electoral reform to make every vote count, not these blatant attempts to diminish our democratic rights.”


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