Voter Suppression: An American Export to Britain

Elections Legislation Politics Voting Rights

             New Orleans      The Conservative Party in the United Kingdom was trounced in recent local elections, losing 1000 seats, 500 to the Labour Party, 400 to the Liberal Democrats, and 200 to the Greens.  Voters weren’t sure about much other than that they wanted to get rid of the Conservatives, who have clung onto power for more than a dozen years with a succession of Prime Ministers.  Not surprisingly, the Conservatives are looking for a way to improve their dire fortunes, with national elections pending sometime in 2024.  They seem to have to decide to try out an American import that continues to be the flavor de jure for conservatives on the US side of the pond as well:  voter suppression.

The recent election in Britain featured a first – voter IDs.  Once again, by all reports, this was, as usual, a solution in search of a problem.  Reportedly, there were only two cases of false voter impersonation in the last UK general election in 2019 out of tens of millions of votes cast.  Now, new Parliamentary action has made ID’s mandatory.  The United Kingdom, like the USA doesn’t have a national identification system, like many countries have, so taking a page from Texas and other states, the allowable photo IDs are heavily skewed towards voters that the Conservatives wanted and against voters they abhor, like the young.  As reported in the London Review of Books,

Any passport or driving license is acceptable, so is an older person’s bus pass.  But not a student photocard or a 16-25 railcard.  Of two physically identical Oyster cards – the travel passes used in London – the one issued to over sixties can be used for photo ID; the one issued to students can’t.

This all sounds strikingly and sadly familiar.  Adding to the degree of difficulty, the UK doesn’t even offer voters without an ID a chance to sign and cast a provisional ballot in order to resolve the issue and be counted.  A voter is simply sent away.

Of course, like the US, young voters aren’t the only ones targeted.

The government’s own research suggests that about two million registered British voters, out of a total of around 49,000,000, don’t have any of the forms of photo ID recognized by the new rules, most of which cost money; of these potentially excluded voters, more than 800,000 say they’re unlikely to apply for the free Voter Authority Certificate (just a piece of paper with a photo and a serial number printed on it) which registered voters can get online to allow them to vote.

They were all amazingly frank in targeting minorities.  The initial 2014 Election Commission report, based on absolutely no evidence, but rumors and racism, named sixteen areas where they “suspected” there might be voting chicanery, and were clear why they believed it, writing:

‘We have heard some strongly held views,’ the report states, ‘based in particular on reported first-hand experience by some campaigners and elected representatives, that electoral fraud is more likely to be committed by or in support of candidates standing for election in areas which are largely or predominately populated by some South Asian communities, specifically those with roots in parts of Pakistan or Bangladesh.’

It can’t get plainer than that.  In the US, the least Republicans pretend they are not targeting minorities, the young, and the poor.  In the UK, they seem to be more than willing to import the worst of our political practices, and double down.