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CMV: the threat to liberty from mandatory voter ID is insignificant

“CMV” stands for “Change my view”. It is the name of a subreddit where people go to argue, expecting disagreement, as I expect it now.

In the most recent Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty told the Lords and the Commons that “My Government will invest in new green industries to create jobs”, but there were serious proposals as well. She also said, “Legislation will be introduced to ensure the integrity of elections”. This was a reference to the proposed Electoral Integrity Bill. You can read the Hansard account of the debate in Parliament here. Chloe Smith MP, who it appears is the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, there’s posh now, said,

Asking voters to prove their identities will safeguard against the potential in our current system for someone to cast another person’s vote at the polling station. Showing identification is something people of all backgrounds do every day.

Northern Ireland has used voter identification in its elections since 1985, and expanded this in 2003 during the last Labour Government. In the first general election after photographic identification was introduced in Northern Ireland by the then Labour Government (2005), turnout in Northern Ireland was higher than in each of England, Scotland and Wales. Since then, the experience in Northern Ireland has shown that once voter identification is established as part of the voting system the vast majority of electors complete the voting process after arriving at the polling station. A wide range of countries, such as Canada and most European nations, require some form of identification to vote.

New research published yesterday on www.gov.uk clearly indicates that the vast majority of the electorate of Great Britain, 98% of electors, already own an eligible form of identification, which includes a broad range of documents and expired photographic identification.

And, um, that sounds fair to me. Note that the Northern Irish Electoral Identity Card is not required to be shown before one can vote. It is but one of several acceptable forms of ID, and is issued free of charge to those people who don’t have any of the other forms so that nobody will be unable to vote due to poverty. It is not the abominable high-tech integrated without-this-you-starve Identity Nexus proposed by the Right Honourable Tony Blair. My opinions on that have not changed since 2003. To look at, the Northern Irish Electoral Identity card is a poxy little photocard that looks like it was issued by your local library. This lack of sophistication, the fact that you only need the effing thing once every five years or so, and the fact that voters have been obliged to show ID before voting in Northern Ireland for years without any obvious bad consequences, lead me not to fear the rollout of a similar scheme in the rest of the UK as the first step on the slippery slope towards a national ID card.

As to whether a legal requirement to show photographic ID before one votes is a thing good, bad or indifferent in itself, that is a separate debate. Dawn Butler MP, writing in the Times, says, “This, to me, is nothing more than a cynical attempt at voter suppression by our government — and it must be stopped. It mirrors some of the subversive tactics deployed in some states in America.” Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society writes in the Guardian that it would undermine democracy. Over in the US, where the state of Georgia has recently passed its own Election Integrity Act, President Biden said a thing about eagles.

33 comments to CMV: the threat to liberty from mandatory voter ID is insignificant

  • Lee Moore

    Strictly speaking, mandatory ID for voting doesn’t even make it onto the starting grid as a restriction of liberty. Because the right to vote is not part of liberty, it’s a positive political right. You can live in a dictatorship and be blessed with maximal liberty, if it happens that the dictator is the sort of chap who prefers only to make and enforce laws consistent with classical liberalism.

    In practice, dictators are seldom so inclined, and so universal suffrage is a good – though very far from perfect – mechanism for trying to keep our political masters in order.

    Voting is either a bug or a feature depending on whether you’re a master or a citizen, but it’s not a “liberty.”

    And ID for voting is perfectly sensible and reasonable. Though as I understand it, it isn’t going to apply to postal votes, which seems like a bit of a loophole to me.

  • Jon Eds

    In the particular case of voter ID I don’t see any incremental reduction in liberty. Passports and driving licenses already exist. Proving that you are part of the polity in order to vote hardly seems like an improper use of ID and as we have seen in the US and other developing countries voter ID could help control the State, as it makes it harder for them to ignore the people. I’m not convinced this is a massive issue in the UK though.

    In general it is better that the State should have as little information about Society as possible. The first step to control is to know.

    Probably the biggest threat to liberty at the moment is the rapid disappearance of cash.

  • Alex VanderWoude

    Over here in Canada, one must provide photo identification at all municipal, provincial, and federal elections. A driver’s license will do, or a passport, or lots of other forms of identification. The poll worker checks your ID, finds your name on the registered voters list, draws a line through it with pen as you watch, and then hands you a paper ballot. You go to the voting booth and use the provided pencil to fill in the bubble next to the candidate(s) you like, like a multiple-choice exam. You then insert the ballot into a machine where your vote is tallied and stored in the machine’s belly. Poll results are thus counted immediately, and there is a paper trail to audit the votes in a given machine.

    It has been this way my entire adult life (*cough* years), and I believe it was that way long before I was old enough to vote. We Canadians consider it to be a normal and prudent way to run elections. Of course there is opportunity for fraud, but we believe this system is a good balance between elector convenience and electoral integrity.

  • Snorri Godhi

    When i learned that voter ID has not been required to vote in the UK* before now, my first thought was that this just shows how backward the UK has become.

    * not including Northern Ireland, apparently.

    On second thought, the requirement for voter ID probably does not much reduce the opportunity for voting fraud.
    Cleaning up voting rolls, and ensuring a reliable counting process, are probably much more important.
    At least, in what one might call “”civilized”” countries.
    Although, if the counting process is unreliable, one must wonder how “”civilized”” is the country.

    On a personal note: at the last EU election, i showed up to vote, only to be informed, with a giggle, that my resident-alien ID expired on that same day. Giggling back, i produced my passport as a backup, and was allowed to vote.

  • People who’ve tried to convince me that presenting ID at the polls is a plot to suppress voting — well, all of them have been leftists. Not great statistics, but a hint, especially as the left has been accused of voter suppression for well over a century. Poll taxes and Jim Crow are examples.

    If ever the right gets to cheating on votes, the left will be glad to have voter ID available. And I’m sure the right has done some cheating, but the left seems to do more.

    An Ego and a Superego walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them, and says, “Before I can serve you, I have to see your ID.”

  • Ferox

    This is one of those conversations where one side is making serious arguments, and playing along with the idea that this is a serious discussion, while the other side is absolutely cynical and insincere in their assertions.

    The Left don’t give a flying foley about voter rights. If they could institute a set of non-extremist checks (i.e. do you agree that gender is mutable?) for voters they would do it in a heartbeat … so long as they were the ones defining “extremism”.

    In the US, the sole reason that the Left is against voter ID is because they believe that illegal immigrants will tend to vote for them. That’s it. All the other things they say are pure unadulterated horseshit. And when they discover that people from more culturally traditional countries will not go along with the rad-trans, mandatory-gay, CRT agenda the Left is pushing, their position reversal will be a thing to see. Watch out for the scorch marks near their heels as they spin 180 degrees in record time – “not having Voter ID is rayciss!!!”

  • Flubber

    Its worse than that Ferox; the Labour Party has a demonstrable track record of electoral fraud.

    You know the kind of dodgy shit that the Democrats absolutely didn’t do last year…

  • George Atkisson

    Thank you Ellen for your concluding lines. Beat me to it! 😜👍👏

  • John Lewis

    UK voting irregularities are not restricted to Labour as the strange events of 2015 in South Thanet proved.

    The election results were unusually delayed with rumours of ballot boxes first going missing then reappearing some six hours later. When the result was finally announced the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, had been narrowly defeated.

    Had he been elected and taken his place in Parliament the potential effects on the imminent EU Referendum were something all the main parties were most anxious to avoid.

    In a virtual reversal of the Biden situation it transpired that UKIP had comfortably won the Thanet council elections which were held simultaneously. Yet their charismatic leader had somehow failed to gain a similar level of personal support.

    A straight comparison of voting numbers would be difficult as, I believe, the council results would have to be compared to two parliamentary constituencies (North and South Thanet). Still the overall impression was deeply troubling.

  • John Lewis

    The fact that in the EU referendum less than a year later Thanet voted leave by a margin of 46,000 to 26,000 might be seen as further reason to question the 2015 result.

  • decnine

    A simple voter ID system? Never underestimate the capacity of the UK Civil Service to conjure complexity ex vacuo.

  • Paul Marks

    Lee Moore and others have beat me to the punch.

    If people do not want to prove why they are – they do not have to vote (which is a political power act – which is not the same as freedom from the state).

    The one possible counter argument is not “racist, you hate the poor” (the “argument” of the Frankfurt School Marxists who dominate Western cultural institutions) – but rather if voting is made COMPULSORY is in Australia – “you make me vote – and you make me present this visual I.D. when I do”, but voting is NOT compulsory in the United Kingdom.

    John Lewis – yes the establishment made no secret of their desire to stop Mr Farage by any means necessary, they hate him just as they hate President Trump. What happened in Thanet was deeply troubling.

    Perry often says that the independence referendum of 2016 shows that voting can achieve things – and I have used the same argument. However, the establishment have gone from trying to prevent independence – to trying to make it meaningless.

    The doctrine is that regulations are “standards” and the United Kingdom must have the “highest” “standards” of “worker rights” and “consumer rights” and-so-on – if that is what is now accepted by the Civil Service, Quangos and all political parties – then deregulation will not happen, European Union law will remain DE FACTO the law of the United Kingdom.

    Democracy does indeed depend upon honest elections – without them then a government, under this system, has no legitimacy, which is why (no matter how much the Woke media try to CENSOR this) the Federal government of Biden/Harris has no legitimacy (it is based on lies and on the threat of VIOLENCE from the FBI and other security services – who aim to crush opposition). But honest elections are not enough on their own.

    If all parties endorse the same policies, more taxes, government spending, Green New Deal, Frankfurt School Diversity and Inclusion Agenda, and-so-on then elections can be totally honest (every vote from a real voter – unlike Mr Biden with his “80 million votes” which were not from 80 million voters) and there is still no democracy – because there is no real CHOICE for the voters.

    It does not have to be like this. For example, as I have pointed out before, Florida is a diverse society (diverse in the old sense of that word – not “Diversity” in the Frankfurt School of Marxism sense). Florida has debts – but it is not drowning in debt (at either the State of local level), and its taxes, government spending, and regulations are under some control. Elections matter – DIFFERENT policies on government spending, taxation, and REGULATIONS (such as pro or anti lockdowns and mask mandates – and on such things as firearm regulations, the protection of persons and their property against riots, and election law) are presented by the political parties.

    That it should be – and such States as Florida and Texas are not small, there are many millions of people who live in these places. And very different policies are presented by the Democrats and the Republicans – the voters have a real choice.

    “Consensus politics” where political debate consists of the parties chanting “you are corrupt” “no – you are corrupt” at each other, is not democracy – if the people have no CHOICE between different policies (higher or lower taxes, government spending, regulations – and so on), then elections (no matter how honest) are almost pointless.

    Elections without really different POLICIES also opens the door to “Identity Politics” – if people are not voting on things such as taxation, government spending and regulations then they will vote on such things as RACE.

    And that is the road to war and destruction.

  • And ID for voting is perfectly sensible and reasonable. Though as I understand it, it isn’t going to apply to postal votes, which seems like a bit of a loophole to me.

    …and there’s the rub, because while postal voting didn’t used to be a source of significant fraud, the “new British” have exploited it to bring their somewhat repellent electoral practices from the 3rd World to the UK. Of course they don’t want voter ID or a return to restrictive use of postal voting, because with it they have the ability to manipulate the electorate (even if only the local electorate) to secure political positions and possibility of graft.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the Lutfur Rahman scandal or the going’s on in Tower Hamlets or in Luton which was placed into “special measures” to attempt to protect elections from explicit manipulation by the usual suspects.


    As for voter ID, just bring along the local council issued voter card and a government issued photo ID and you’re sorted. Sure, some people don’t drive and don’t have passports (quite expensive now), but they’re a vanishingly small number of those actually LEGALLY ENTITLED TO VOTE. So rather than force everyone to adopt ID cards, simply institute some form of freely available alternate photo ID just for those folks and JUST FOR ELECTIONS.

    The reason the lefties don’t want voter ID in any form is that it reduces their ability to manipulate the vote. Same with the use of indirect voting such as postal and proxy votes which they abuse to the same ends.

  • Mary Contrary

    I agree that voter ID is no threat to liberty – with one proviso. If a new form of ID is introduced to enable voting, it must be made illegal to demand it for any other purpose.

    There is indeed a threat to liberty if everyone is guaranteed to have a particular form of ID. Once ID is standardised in this way, it will become very practical to demand it for everything. And indeed, to record the ID reference number at every turn. That is indeed a threat to liberty.

    However, so long as a multitude of different IDs are acceptable for voting, and no one standard form is introduced nor can any given person be confidently expected to have any particular form of ID, the increase in risk as compared with now is negligible.

  • – with one proviso. If a new form of ID is introduced to enable voting, it must be made illegal to demand it for any other purpose.

    Indeed, because without that proviso, it is not so much a slippery slope as a vertical cliff to a universal ID card. Which is why that proviso will not be added.

  • llamas

    Mary Contrary wrote:

    ‘However, so long as a multitude of different IDs are acceptable for voting, and no one standard form is introduced nor can any given person be confidently expected to have any particular form of ID, the increase in risk as compared with now is negligible.’

    and that’s the key – a distributed, non-specific solution. The risk to individual liberty is very small indeed when the requirement is ‘you must show some form of ID, pick any one of 100 acceptable forms’. The risk becomes great only when the requirement is ‘you must show one form of ID, and one only.’ Naturally, since the second requirement is the easiest for bureaucrats to handle, and offers the greatest opportunities for controlling and surveilling the populace, it is the one which will be preferred.

    However, as we have seen in the US, the issue of ID cannot be seen in isolation. ‘Proving’ that you are the person whose name appears on the voter roll means very little when the voter roll has been allowed to become fictional. That’s the other half of the problem – making sure that the voter roll does not include non-existent voters. If you do not have some baseline that defines – before the election – who is eligible to vote, and instead you simply allow voters to appear out of the woodwork, your election is meaningless.



  • Ferox

    and instead you simply allow voters to appear out of the woodwork

    Or even worse, if previously unnoticed boxes of ballots are “discovered” just in time to swing an election (somehow, always to the hard-Left candidate) and then promptly destroyed immediately after they are counted, voter rolls and voter ID won’t matter at all.

    Or if poorly-secured voting machines deliver improbable results, and then are reset and wiped before they can be audited.

    In those cases election integrity is a sad joke, and voter ID is an irrelevancy at best.

  • יעקב

    I thought only the US was crazy enough not to require some sort of ID for voting. Turns out – there is no idea crazy enough for the UK to not copy promptly from the US. Including it’s absurd and deceitful “justification” : voter suppression.
    Strange how Canada (and probably all the rest of the world) managed to adopt a sensible voting mechanism. (See Alex’s comment above).
    The other crazy idea copied from the US is kneeling before a soccer game.

  • staghounds

    “(somehow, always to the hard-Left candidate)”

    And, somehow, always in the same sort of heavily public housing and benefits drawing districts. You’d think the slow reporting precincts would be out on the plains of Montana or the remote mountains of Alaska, but no. It’s always the 98% D-voting projects, where the D candidates are saved by those late delivered ballot boxes.

    Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action.

    And when the accidents always help one side, they aren’t accidents.

  • Jacob

    The comment above is in moderation probably because I used “soccer” instead of football.

  • djm

    UK Labour Party “Voter ID is nothing more than a cynical attempt at voter suppression by the government ”


    UK Labour Party “At members meetings, make sure you bring your Labour Membership Card and ID verification”

  • llamas

    @ יעקב –

    It may not be clear to outsiders, but this sort of no-ID nonsense is confined to some very specific areas of the US. Most places have the entirely-sensible kinds of approaches that you describe. These bizarre processes are only used in some isolated places, always controlled more-or-less 100% by elected Democrats and majority-Democrat-voting areas, and (funnily-enough) in just those exact places where a few extra Democratic votes are required to win Federal elections. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

    The large danger is that the Democratic Federal House and Senate will force through Federal laws which will put these processes in place nationwide, in more-or-less direct conflict with the plain language of the US Constitution – which assigns matters of voting processes more-or-less exclusively to the states. If that happens, look forward to seeing some banana-republic sorts of elections that will put the current mess in the shade.



  • Dr Evil

    Fine by me just so long as postal voting is as rare as hens teeth and for the genuine housebound and not hordes of Muslim women being voted for by the head of the household filling in multiple votes.

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    On the margins, but practical points.

    My former cleaner and her husband lack driving licences and passports. They are in their mid-40s-early 50s. Both have had problems with the ‘prove who you are’ types.

    At another level is the belief that not only everyone will have document x and document y, they will have the latest fancy telephone, etc. My friends (in their 60s), highly educated, include some without computer or television, others with a basic mobile telephone (and no idea of its number…).

    On the practicalities – of course, postal voting does not work where it should. As a former overseas elector, I never received the ballot in time to return it. I was reduced to using an aged aunt as a proxy (based in the UK), who in turn required a postal vote because she couldn’t get to the relevant (not too far distant) polling station, having given up driving and surrendered her licence…

    But it is largely irrelevant to me since I have seldom voted (for want of anyone I deemed worthy of receiving my vote, or even anyone one might feel an urge to vote against). The first and last time I voted with enthusiasm for a candidate in a general election was in 1979 (Leeds NW).

  • Jacob

    The larger issue is, of course, opposition to a Government run population registry with obligatory Government issued ID cards. Any good libertarian must, by instinct, oppose such atrocities.
    The problem is – this train has already departed. It’s like the issue of internet privacy. There ain’t such a thing. The moment you log in there is no privacy on the net. Cannot be. Same with privacy vs. the government. The moment you are born in a NIH hospital or receive any Government check (like child support, unemployment, etc.), the moment you enroll in Government run school, or serve in the Army – forget about privacy.

    On the other hand – a good ID card comes in handy – for bank transaction, for contracts, for insurance, for driving license — etc. And lack of ID card has never hindered totalitarian regimes in abusing people…
    Not to mention elections… having a good population registry facilitates very much the avoidance of election fraud, is even required.

  • JohnK

    This is Bunter’s “look, a squirrel” moment. There is no real problem with fake voters turning up in person at the polling station. The real crimes take place using mass postal voting, usually involving Pakistani or Bangladeshi politicians, and the Labour Party. Attempting to “fix” a problem which does not exist, whilst ignoring a real problem, is classic political bullshit, which is why I cannot be surprised to see it coming from that classic bluffer, chancer, liar and bullshitter who currently occupies Number Ten.

    And yes, Nigel Farage was cheated out of Thanet South, but because, like Donald Trump, the MSM hated him, it was a “nothing to see here” moment.

  • DP

    Dear Miss Solent

    This week ID to vote, next week ID to do whatever the government feels like restricting: internal passports.

    Wedges and slippery slopes come to mind.

    Government has been conditioning the public, starting with the most vulnerable – children – for decades: Think 21, subsequently raised to Think 25. When I told a young checkout girl that they’ll soon make it compulsory for everyone, she thought it was a good idea. I was joking.

    ID is demanded now for many things: opening a bank account, registering with an employment agency, using the services of a solicitor or other professions. I believe there are moves to make landlords check ‘papers’ of prospective tenants.

    Time will come when almost everyone will know nothing other than ‘your papers please’. Tell them how it used to be and you’ll get a blank look, or a laugh for being a loon.

    ID might stop most voter fraud, but do nothing for government election rigging.

    When voter ID comes in I will remove myself from the electoral register. At the recent elections I voted NONE as there was no-one worth voting for and there ought not to be such an animal as a PCC (more police, more crime?).


  • APL

    Part of the problem, is what constitutes ID ? Although previous commentators have mentioned Canada, the term ID is very vague. It does not have to be photo ID, for photo ID the picture does not even have to match your appearance, and in the case on non-photo ID it can be something as rudimentary as a cell phone bill. Basically a name and address that corresponds to the area you are voting in. Rumours of fraud abound, but no one really wants to dig too deeply into it. Yes, Canadians have gotten used to it – but the voting process is hardly secure or tamper proof. Basically Canadians like to operate on the honour system and feel any efforts to change is “not who we are”.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Some quite sensible comments here.

    The concerns about compulsory ID illustrate a distinction to which i called attention some time ago (in an entirely unrelated debate) — between freedom from coercion (and physical constraint) and freedom from POWER of coercion (and constraint).

    Clearly, state-mandated IDs do not, by themselves, infringe on freedom from coercion.
    They do, however, infringe on freedom from POWER of coercion.

  • 1) As recent events in the US demonstrate, less ID-ing of voters can lead to more monitoring of citizens in every other activity. The dangers of voter ID being a route to universal ID are not zero, but they must be compared with the danger of lack of it letting an election be ‘won’ by fanatics for universal (except when voting) ID.

    2) Although counting only legal votes will obviously help and not harm the Tories, there are some ‘Tories’ so far inside the chattering-class bubble that they denounce this (e.g. former leader of Scots Tories Ruth Davidson). Since dislike of Boris is so obviously a motive in her case (and, I suspect, others), I am in hopes this will stiffen resolve. Postal voting is the greater issue. Opening the debate so as to get all opponents on record at the start against very simple-to-state polling-booth ID (that a large majority support), with postal voting reform as an obviously-required associate of thus “ensuring election integrity”, is politically smart – provided, of course, that both are addressed.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Ellen: the left has been accused of voter suppression for well over a century. Poll taxes and Jim Crow are examples.
    The white-supremacist South was not dominated by leftists. Democrats, yes, though the semi-vestigial Republican parties in those states were fully complicit in the suppression of black votes. (In the late 1800s, Southern Republicans split into “Black and Tan” and “Lily White” factions; the latter group hoping to compete with Democrats for the votes of the dominant white majority. The Lily Whites were left after black voting was killed off in the 1890s.)

  • The problem is – this train has already departed. It’s like the issue of internet privacy. There ain’t such a thing. The moment you log in there is no privacy on the net. Cannot be. Same with privacy vs. the government. The moment you are born in a NIH hospital or receive any Government check (like child support, unemployment, etc.), the moment you enroll in Government run school, or serve in the Army – forget about privacy.

    Just because you don’t know how to maintain you’re privacy and intrusion on the Internet doesn’t mean we are all that dumb. For myself and others we go to a great deal of trouble to keep our data out of the Googleplex or from the machinations of The Zuckerborg. When I logged into an old computer of mine that I was refurbishing it reminded me that I had not logged into Google for more than 6 months, I laughed and then formatted the drive.

    We fought against Tony B’Liar’s ID cards and database state for long enough, some of us even activating our dormant Irish Citizenship to act as a bulwark against it. In the end we won, but it was a close run thing and that was as draconian a proposal as you’ll see. While they’d like to number us and treat us like cattle, I can’t see them taking on that fight again.

  • The white-supremacist South was not dominated by leftists. (Rich Rostrom, May 20, 2021 at 9:25 pm)

    The white-supremacist south found its most perfect expression in progressive president Woodrow Wilson. Any modern leftist you force to talk about it will assure you that early-20th-century progressivism was “not real leftism” just as fast as they will tell you Stalin was “not real socialism” – but the same people were the ones supporting both until long after they were defeated (insofar as they were) by the opposition of those ‘evil right-wing reactionaries’ the left hated then and hates now. Ellen’s summary is closer to the mark than Rich’s.

    The Lily Whites were left after black voting was killed off in the 1890s.)

    An effect that principally should be blamed on those who killed that vote off. If memory serves, the few surviving southern Republicans supported such resistance as Plassey v. Ferguson – which was, if you like, an example of attempted collusive lawfare, since the rail company had arranged the incident and wanted to lose the case (to avoid needing two carriages when there were only enough passengers, both white and black, for one). They regretted instead being told that separate was legal provided it was also equal (with the ‘separate’ being enforced but the ‘equal’ having the same variability as the results of modern woke mathematics).

    Such minor resistance seems small beer, you may well say, but compare the state of southern Republicans over a century ago (after the vote was so corrupted there that reversing it seemed a hopeless dream) to the more recent state of the Republicans in California (where a similar stitch up has been effected). While individuals like Nunes seem to deserve some respect AFAICT, I also hear complaints about the CA Republicans in general. The role of ‘legal opposition’ in a state where politics is so well fixed that your role is sometimes to be thrown out in the primary, before the election even happens, may encourage some talent to go elsewhere and demoralise some who choose to remain.