As a Libertarian, I disagree with strict laws on personal freedom. For example, I don’t believe that a national identification card would be necessary as the requirement would infringe on personal freedom. Besides, proof of eligibility for most things can be secured via use of already-obtained items. For example, one can obtain a job with an National Insurance number and a Passport.
However, I agree with laws which require citizens to prove eligibility for optional intentions. For example, I agree with requiring identification to be shown in order to buy alcohol.
I believe photographic voter identification should be necessary.
Identification is currently needed to do so many things. In the UK, this can be as simple as buying alcohol, travelling abroad, buying paracetamol and obtaining student discounts. In the US, it is necessary to apply for social security and MedicAid. In both countries, citizens must have a licence to drive and produce photo identification to attend the vast majority of political events.
So why not to vote?
There is a history of laws being implemented purely with political intent. As per usual, and rightly so to an extent, there is a deep and everlasting history of public suspicion. Long after the introduction and cancellation of Jim Crow laws in the US, we have managed to shake off institutional racism. Jim Crow laws, for clarification, restricted the fundamental rights of Blacks and so made it harder for them to vote. Thankfully, following the Fifteenth Amendment, US federal and state governments have been prohibited from denying the fundamental right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. The latter part ensured the opening up of the voting system to all former slaves.
One main argument in favour of introducing a photographic identification requirement in order to be able to vote is that of Voter Fraud cases. Largely, the numbers premise to this falls through as there are very few cases every election. According to a report by Sir Eric Pickles there were just 26 votes out of 51.4 million cast in the UK in 2015 that were fraudulent, as well as an extra 11 proxy votes.
In the US, understandably, this was on a much higher scale as there are many more people within the electorate. The Heritage Foundation recorded 1,132 proven instances of Voter Fraud in the years before and including 2017. The Heritage Foundation itself can be quoted as saying the following: “Preventing, deterring and prosecuting such fraud is essential to protecting the integrity of our voting process”. I’m sure that everyone apart from anarchists and communists can agree with this concept.
I would in turn argue that any fraud undermines the democratic process. An illegal vote is quite rightly a criminal offence and diminishes, even if only slightly, the value of a legal vote. I believe that we should take whatever action possible to prevent any cases of fraud. It is possible, indeed probable, that fraudsters will employ even more advanced techniques in the future to fraudulently cast votes – as in any other type of fraud – which is why I believe that Voter Identification is the way forward.
There is a side to this argument which is concerning. This is the fact that poorer people and ethnic minorities are less likely to participate when these laws are introduced. This is because poorer people are less likely to obtain a passport (which cost £72.50 each) or have a driving licence (a practical and theory set of driving examinations would cost at least £75). Indeed, if strapped for cash it is understandable why photographic identification may not be a priority.
This is why the system needs reform.
The cost is high to order copies of documents like birth certificates. It must, if the system is introduced, become free to order copies of documents for the first time. After that, the government should revert back to charging for providing additional copies.
Overall, it was estimated by the Treasury in 2005 that introducing universal ID cards would cost £5.8 billion. The Guardian analysis of the 2005 London School of Economics report puts the cost at much higher – some £18 billion. My suggestion would be that only people who do not have photo identification such as a passport or driving licence could request universal voter identification free of charge. Although some may not have documents of proof for universal identification, i.e some sections of society like the present Windrush generation migrants, this can be easily obtained through past employer records and national insurance numbers – even border checks.
Illegal immigrants would slip through the net, but they shouldn’t have the right to vote in the first place.
Free photographic identification cards, if adopted, could be issued at minimal cost to the minority of people who do not have access to more traditional means of formal identification.
I am a Fiscal Conservative, and bemoan wasting money on a regular basis. This, however, would be a smart investment for a secure nation whose future is yet to be foretold as we leave the EU.