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Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Photo cards for voters – one step nearer digital identity

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‘BRING your photo ID to vote’, says a political party flyer delivered to my house. How many people are aware that on May 4, when local elections will be held across the country, they will be denied entry to their polling station without a certain accessory? No, not a mask as required in 2021, but proof of identity. Your polling card and inclusion on the register will not be enough.

The flyer goes on to explain that young persons’ railcards or student cards won’t count and neither will certain other forms of ID. In my case, I have an old paper driving licence and an expired passport, so I would need to apply for a ‘voter authority certificate’ online. Some readers may regard this change to a simple system which has worked for three centuries as a minor if not trivial requirement. They may see a necessary intervention to prevent electoral fraud, but I disagree.

Of course, voting is vulnerable to cheats. Our elections may not be as corrupt as in the US, where half of the populace believe that Donald Trump won a second term in 2020 only for late dumps of ballots to overturn his lead in key states and give Joe Biden victory. Although this was the biggest scandal of alleged fraud, the problem is perennial in states where large cities (often only the capital) are overwhelmingly Democrat, while most counties are Republican red. 

By means fair or foul, Democrats have ensured that tallies from rural areas are overcome by a concentrated mass of urban blue. Allegedly, the dubious practice of vote harvesting goes beyond appropriation of legitimate voters to include dead persons, illegal immigrants and individuals with double identities. As John van Buren remarked on unscrupulous electioneering: ‘Vote early and vote often.’

Election rigging is becoming a major concern in countries which present themselves as civic democracies. The two biggest threats to fair elections arise not from impersonation at the polling station, but from the rise in postal voting, and from programmable counting machines (not yet introduced for Westminster elections, but used in proportional representation systems such as the London Assembly).  

The cheating potential of postal votes was evident in a by-election in Peterborough in 2019, as described by Michael St George on this website. The Labour Party surprisingly retained a seat after the disgraced sitting MP was removed by public recall. At the time of the by-election, the recently-formed Brexit Party was riding high, having swept the board in the last British participation in the EU parliament elections.

The people of Peterborough, having voted to leave the EU, were as exasperated as anyone else with the establishment’s determined efforts to prevent Brexit from happening. They had a chance to put a Brexit Party candidate in the House of Commons. It looked inevitable: an opinion poll just before the vote showed the Brexit Party on 26 per cent and Labour trailing in third place on 20 per cent.

On the day, Labour won by 683 votes over the Brexit Party, taking an unexpectedly high 31 per cent of the share. How on earth was this possible? St George, unlike the strangely silent Conservative Party, suspected abuse of postal voting. The Brexit Party sought an investigation by the Electoral Commission, although this did not proceed owing to a General Election being called a few months later.

The turnout (an inappropriate term given the increase in armchair voters) was 48 per cent, which was about 10 per cent more than normally expected for a by-election. Postal ballots accounted for 39 per cent of the votes, the highest ever in the UK. Surely relevant here is the city’s large Muslim population, and the tendencies for vote harvesting in such communities. Labour’s campaign team included Tariq Mahmood, a convicted vote-rigger.  

Would it be too far-fetched to suggest a similar tactic to that in the US presidential election in 2020, when allegedly ballot boxes were added towards the end of the count when the size of the opponent’s lead was known? As in North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Pennsylvania, the late change in the contest was just enough to bring home the bacon for Labour (excuse the non-halal metaphor).

I doubt whether voting fraud is as bad in the UK as in the US. However, after decades of denying any significant cause for concern, the authorities now want us to believe there is a threat. This is the problem-reaction-solution model in action. They want us to see a problem (systemic electoral fraud), creating a reaction (calls for more secure voting) and then providing the solution (proof of identity).

If the government really wanted to tackle perceived and actual undermining of fair elections, it would minimise postal voting and prevent use of electronic vote-counters. The real reason, I fear, for imposing identity checks at the polling station is another step towards a national scheme of digital identity. The fact that I would need to apply online as a condition of my franchise shows that progress will be made in this interim stage. Rather convenient for the digital project is the passport office strike in the run-up to the local elections.

A retired senior police officer tells me that polling station staff are instructed to call the police on anyone objecting to the identity requirement. And there will surely be people turned away. Not necessarily the ethnic minorities who progressive activists claim will be disenfranchised, but the older folk who faithfully traipse to the polls in all weather, and have never before needed to prove who they are. But who are we to complain?

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