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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Another race row hits the Tories

As if they had not done enough to disrupt good race relations in this country through their mishandling of the Windrush generation and the targeting of long-standing immigrants for deportation, the Tories have jumped feet first into yet another row over race.

As the Observer reports, the equality and human rights watchdog has warned that Government plans that will force people to prove their identities at polling stations in May’s local elections risk disenfranchising members of ethnic minority communities.

They say that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, raising its serious concern that the checks will deter immigrants and others from participating in the democratic process:

Under the new government voting rules, being trialled in several local authorities at the 3 May local elections, people will be asked at polling stations to produce documents proving their identity – such as a passport or driving licence – before casting their vote. Currently, no such proof is required.

The Windrush scandal has highlighted how many who came to this country from the Caribbean, mainly in the late 1950s, have struggled to prove their British citizenship because the authorities failed to register them or destroyed their landing cards, or because they have never applied for documents such as passports. Ministers say the pilot projects are being run – with a view to adopting them nationwide if they are successful – in response to concerns about electoral fraud.

But in a letter to Lidington, and leaked to the Observer, the EHRC says evidence of supposed fraud is minimal and warns that there is a real risk that legal residents who might not have a passport or driving licence – or might be reluctant to produce them at polling stations – could be disenfranchised as a result.

In the letter, the EHRC’s legal officer, Claire Collier, tells Lidington: “The Commission is concerned that the requirement to produce identification at the given local elections (Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking) will have a disproportionate impact on voters with protected characteristics, particularly older people, transgender people, people with disabilities and/or those from ethnic minority communities. In essence, there is a concern that some voters will be disenfranchised as a result of restrictive identification requirements.”

Of course the Government were warned about this when they first mooted this idea, but they did not listen. There are a number of voter suppression techniques being practised, mostly by Republicans in the United States, and this is one of them. That the Tories wish to bring them to the UK is a disgrace.
Large-scale voter fraud is unknown in Wales, and is confined in England to certain areas, mostly those where the biraderi system is strong. None of the trial towns is noted for large populations of sub-continental origin, which tends to confirm your suspicion that voter fraud is not Tories' true target.
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