The Conservative Government has been accused of copying USA ‘voter suppression’ laws as plans to introduce mandatory photo ID for voting has been proposed.

In The Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, the Government revealed plans to require photo identification before voting in elections.

The proposal has been slammed by Labour party MPs in Berkshire.

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In a withering attack on the plan, Labour MP for Slough Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said: “Copying the voter suppression techniques of the Republicans in the USA, which make it harder for ethnic minorities and poorer sections of American society to vote, the Tory Party is trying to stifle democracy here by forcing voters to get a photo ID.

“Various official authorities and respected organisations have continually pointed to evidence over several years that the voting system in Britain is very robust. Furthermore, millions of people neither have, nor do they apply for, a passport or driving licence.

“So, if Government forces them to apply for a new ID, even if it is free and is to be provided at the considerable expense of taxpayer money, many Brits will decide to ignore that bureaucratic process and end up not applying, which will ultimately lead to them being excluded from their democratic right to vote.”

Reading Chronicle: Slough MP Tan Dhesi

Turnout for the General Election in 2019 was 67.3 per cent, down 1.5 per cent on the election in 2017. Mr Dhesi referred to voter ID laws in the USA. In the states, photo ID is needed for voting in 18 states, including Florida, Texas, Georgia and Michigan (according to the website Ballotpedia). Mr Dhesi raised fears that having a photo ID in order to vote would reduce participation.

This sentiment was echoed by Labour’s Reading East MP Matt Rodda. Mr Rodda said:  “Incidents of electoral fraud by impersonation are incredibly small. The Prime Minister is on record as having opposed ID cards and by the Government’s own assessment, voter ID requirements could disenfranchise around one million people.

“Our democracy survives and thrives because we have a fair and secure voting system. I am concerned that the actions of the Government in both voter ID but also in banning judicial reviews on matters relating to elections and repealing the Fixed Term Parliament Act will make democratic engagement harder.”

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Mr Rodda’s mention of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which limits the time between elections to a maximum of five years, also featured in the Queen’s Speech.

Research by the Electoral Commission conducted in 2015 found that 3.5 million citizens (7.5 per cent of the electorate) did not have access to photo ID – so there could be truth to Mr Rodda’s claim.

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Meanwhile, Adam Afriyie, Conservative MP for Windsor, expressed surprise that a voter ID law had not been introduced earlier.

Mr Afriyie said: “I have always been struck by the lack of verification when people vote in the UK, compared to developing nations who seem to require fingerprints, ID and often biometrics.

“I believe this is a good step forward that will prevent some voter fraud, but  I very much hope that at some point we’ll address the far bigger issue of postal voting, whereby a dominant person in a household or community is in a position to commandeer the votes of household members. This too must be stopped as it breaches the principle of a secret ballot.”

Reading Chronicle:

Fellow Conservative Sir John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, said: “I welcome measures to prevent illegal voting but will wish to ensure all legally registered voters can vote easily.”

Neighbouring MP for Bracknell James Sunderland, also a Conservative, said: "I am supportive. We have photo ID to drive a car, photo ID to travel abroad and photo ID to shop in Costco. I find it odd that you can still walk into a polling booth and vote without needing to prove who you are!"

Berkshire’s other representatives Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, Laura Farris, MP for Newbury and Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead have all been contacted for a comment.