At Union Council last Thursday a motion was passed that opposes the introduction of the voter ID pilots that will be trialled this May in local elections.
Over 40 leading charities and academics, including the NUS, have already called on the government to urgently reconsider their decision to introduce mandatory voter ID at the elections in May. There are very real concerns that making people show ID to vote will exclude a large section of the electorate. Students often do not have official ID associated with their current address, due to changing living arrangements, the precarity of student housing and the associated costs of obtaining ID. There is a real danger that this system, designed to tackle electoral fraud, is heavy-handed and will disadvantage groups who are already underrepresented in politics. The CEO of the Electoral Reform Society has said of the measure: ‘Electoral fraud is a serious issue, but voter ID is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’
According to the Electoral Commission, 3.5 million electors – 7.5% of the electorate – do not have photo ID. Limiting acceptable ID to passports and photographic driving licences would see potentially 11 million electors, or 24% of the electorate, without acceptable ID. We are really concerned about the effect that this change will have on students, which is why Union Council have mandated that I write to Chloe Smith, the MP for Norwich North and Minister for the Constitution, urging reconsideration.
We will also work with NUS in campaigns against the introduction of restrictive voting laws, and movements towards more representative voting systems. We'll support campaigns that attempt to encourage voting from groups across society, and campaigns that work to explore and explain the political system. The motion also mandates that we campaign for proper political and citizenship education across school curriculums in the UK.
I will be writing a letter to Chloe Smith in the next week and you can read the full motion here.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org