Elections Bill

Written evidence submitted by Ross Johnson (EB05)

Elections Bill

(Bill 138, 2021-22 Session)

Public Bill Committee

1. I would like to make a submission to the Public Bill Committee proceedings on the Elections Bill. I do so in a personal capacity as a voter .

The v oter ID issue

2. The burden is on the Government to show how a voter ID requirement wou ld prevent electoral fraud. As the fundamental right to vote is at stake , the burden is a heavy one. The Government ha s so far provided little or no evidence in support of its argument. Instead, they talk only about the 'potential' for fraud, and the public 'perception' of the electoral process. This was shown in the Government response to the PACAC report in 2020 , where they said :

" In our current system, there is undeniable potential for electoral fraud and the perception of this undermines public confidence in our democracy. " [1] [emphasis added]

3. In its report on the voter ID pilots during the 2019 local election s in England , the Ca binet Office did not attempt to measure the effect of a voter ID requirement on electoral fraud, but only on the perception of fraud :

" We aimed to understand the impact of each model on perceptions of the voting process…and perceptions of electoral fraud" [2] [emphasis added]

The Cabinet Office analysis of the 2019 pilots looks at what voters thought of the requirement, and how it worked in practice, but not on whether it actually achieved the Government's stated aim of reducing electoral fraud. The document does not contain anything to show that the pilots prevented fraudulent voting.

4. I am not aware of any evidence from the Government to show that the voter ID requirement trialled in 2018 and 2019 prevented a single instance of electoral fraud. I assume that they would provide such evidence if they had it, but they have not done so . This is not a good enough basis for any chang e to the law, but particularly not if the change would restrict the exercise of a fundamental right such as voting in public elections.

5. What we do know is t hat the application of the voter ID requirement prevent ed hundreds of people from voting [3] . T here is no sound basis for saying that any one of those people w as attempting fraud , but they were stopped from voting and turned away .

6. Proven cases of electoral personation at polling stations in the UK , or even allegations of it, are low . There are fewer than 50 such allegations in a typical year [4] . On the other hand, i n only the small number of local authorities that were tested in the pilots , the number of people that were prevented from voting was m any multiples of 50 [5] .

7. The 'solution' to personation that has been proposed by the Government is disproportionate. It risks doing more to prevent lawful voting than to protect it. The net result in such a situation would be to damage the electoral process, not to safeguard or improve it.

Amendment s

8. The Government has failed to show that the proposed restriction on the right to vote is justified. I therefore recommend amendment s to the Bill to delete clause 1 and Schedule 1.

9. The Committee may wish to consider mitigating the impact of the restriction by adding the poll card to the list of documents set out in Schedule 1 . This might reduce the damag e to the electoral process caused by the restriction .

Ross Johnson

20 September 2021

[1] Electoral Law: The Urgent Need for Review: Government Response to the Committee's First Report of Session 2019, House of Commons Public Admin. & Constitutional Affairs Cttee, 13 May 2020; p. 7.

[2] Evaluation of Voter ID Pilots 2019, Cabinet Office, July 2019; p. 12.

[3] Ibid (2); p. 16.

[4] Voter ID, House of Commons Library, 3 September 2021; p. 59 et seq.

[5] Ibid (2); p. 16.


Prepared 21st September 2021