The voter identification bill described as a “landscape towards the polls”

Opposition MPs say a person is “more likely to be struck by lightning three times” than to be the victim of voter fraud

Labor accused Boris Johnson of attempting to “choose voters” through a planned voter identification law, calling it a “paywall to the ballot box”.

MPs debate controversial plans submitted to parliament as part of the Elections Bill, which received its second reading in parliament today.

“In this bill, the leaders would want to choose the voters,” Cat Smith, shadow Minister of Labor for Democracy, said in the House of Commons.

“I think voters should choose the leaders of their country. “

With the Election Bill, ministers hope to make it mandatory to show photo ID before voting at their local polling station.

But the legislation has been criticized across the political spectrum for its potential to exclude the homeless, the elderly and the poor from elections.

There have been four convictions for voter identity theft fraud in the past decade, Smith told MPs.

“You’re more likely to be struck by lightning three times,” she said. “Ministers live in an alternate reality where people are constantly trying to impersonate their neighbors to steal a single vote.

“This bill is a paying wall for the ballot box.”

The MP said the bill was “riddled with cheap attempts to dodge scrutiny” and that the proposed laws were designed to increase the Tory majority in Parliament.

“You wouldn’t allow an arsonist to decide the firefighters’ strategy,” Smith said. “You certainly wouldn’t let shoplifters decide the political direction of the police. It sounds a bit strange.

“People with disabilities, the elderly, the young and people without cash will be deprived of their rights. “

The shadow democracy minister said free voter cards – which the government said would be handed out by councils to those without other types of ID – would be a “costly waste of money. taxpayers’ money ”.

Tory MP and former Brexit Secretary David Davis said voter identification was “an illiberal solution in search of a non-existent problem”.

But Chloe Smith, Minister of the Cabinet Office, told the Commons that “fraudulent crime is a very real threat to the integrity of elections.”

The Tory MP has repeatedly referred to a voter fraud scandal during the Tower Hamlets mayoral vote in 2014, which resulted in former mayor Luftur Rahman being convicted of corrupt and illegal practices.

Smith hit back at Labor suggestions that the Elections Bill would restrict the number of people who can vote in elections, saying: “Labor [has its] own obscure interests in making this up and twisting this bill. “

Returning photo ID needed to run in elections risks preventing homeless people from “exercising their democratic right,” Matt Downie, Crisis’s director of policy and external affairs, told The Big Issue.

“Homelessness robs people of their safety and security,” he added. “When you live on the streets, in a hostel, or move from sofa to sofa, accessing or keeping important documents can be difficult because they are often lost or stolen. Replacing them can be costly and often simply out of reach for many of the people we work with.

“Being able to vote is one of the ways we all participate in our society and it shouldn’t be any different for homeless people. Legally requiring voters to present photo ID puts that at risk.

“We urge the government to either drop these plans or put in place a comprehensive outreach plan to ensure everyone can vote.”

Members will vote on the bill later and, if passed, it will move to committee stage for further consideration.

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John McTaggart

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