After the 2019 election, we suggested five ways that Boris Johnson could help to secure the Party’s electoral position as part of our Majority series. This was the second. Eight months on, how are they doing?
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Securing The Majority? 2) Tackling electoral fraud
In the Queen’s Speech delivered to Parliament in October of last year, one passage created quite a lot of agitation on the left: “My Government will take steps to protect the integrity of democracy and the electoral system in the United Kingdom.”
This referred to proposals to bring forward an Electoral Integrity Bill, which would introduce a requirement for voters to provide a photographic ID in order to cast their ballots in general elections (on the mainland, it is already required in Ulster) and English local elections.
Before the election, it sounded like a priority. Updating the House of Commons on the voter ID pilots conducted by the Electoral Commission, Kevin Foster said:
“Electoral fraud is an unacceptable crime that strikes at a core principle of our democracy – that everyone’s vote matters. In our current system, there is undeniable potential for electoral fraud and the perception of this undermines public confidence in our democracy.”
Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, reiterated the Government’s commitment to the idea in response to a question from David Davis in June:
“The Government are committed to introducing voter ID, as well as extra postal and proxy voting measures, to reduce the potential for electoral fraud in order to give the public greater confidence that our elections are secure.”
Yet there was no mention of the Bill in the post-election Queen’s Speech, nor is there any sign of the Bill now.
It may be that it has fallen victim to the broader confusion afflicting the Government’s constitutional approach, which is reflected in the decision to abort the ‘Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission’ promised in the Manifesto. Critics of the Bill also questioned whether it was wise to produce yet another piecemeal reform in the face of pressure for a broader overhaul of UK electoral law in the aftermath of the EU referendum.
So with ministers pressing ahead with measures such as reform to digital campaigning, it may be that voter ID and tighter controls on postal votes will eventually appear as part of a more comprehensive reform package.