A Liberal Democrat press release brings the news:
Ahead of a vote in Parliament on the controversial Elections Bill, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“You don’t strengthen our democracy by making it harder for people to vote.
“The Conservatives’ voter ID law is a blatant assault on our fundamental democratic rights, and Liberal Democrats will resist it all the way.
“Between this and their attacks on the courts, the Human Rights Act and the right to peaceful protest, Boris Johnson and his Tory Ministers are desperately trying to stop people holding them to account for their disastrous policies. We won’t let them.
“Instead of pushing ahead with their discriminatory and unnecessary voter ID law, Ministers should get behind our efforts to build a better politics with a fairer electoral system.”
Among the problems with the Bill are the plans to introduce mandatory voter ID, a measure which will cost money and risks reducing turnout but is a solution to a problem that there is no credible evidence actually exists.
It also would reduce the independence of the Electoral Commission, giving Michael Gove and successors in his post in the Cabinet Office more power over it.
There are some more welcome elements in the bill, such as the new punishment proposed for intimidatory behaviour and (finally!) for digital imprints. The limits on how many proxy votes someone can hold may also help with protecting voting against abuse. However, postal voters will now have to reapply every three years – an increase in frequency that may depress postal voting to the benefit of the Conservatives. I can’t think of a case of credible electoral fraud allegations where this reduction would have helped.
The proposed new powers over third party campaigning contain some welcome improvements in transparency but also, as former Electoral Commissioner David Howarth has pointed out, give ministers some strange powers over third party campaigners and would make electoral cooperation between parties harder.
The Elections Bill would end the current rule that British nationals who have lived abroad for more than 15 years are barred from voting or donating to UK parties.