OVER the last few years, I must have knocked on at least 50,000 doors and my heart sinks when what I hear is ‘there’s no point voting, it doesn’t change a thing’.
These conversations often lead to some of the most fascinating discussions on everything from farming to childcare, immigration to inter-generational fairness.
I will often ask younger voters if they share the same priorities and world view as their parents or earlier generations and I will usually be answered with an emphatic ‘no’. This is followed with the question about why they are effectively letting those grandparents decide on their future…
Recent changes by the Conservative Government to reform Voter ID are therefore very worrying. It claims there is widespread voter fraud. However, there was only one conviction for in-person fraud in 2019. The Electoral Commission’s own website even states: “There is no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud”.
Proposals signed off by Parliament late last year – which Liberal Democrats tried to stop – will force voters to take specified forms of photo ID to the polling station. Bizarrely, an OAP Oyster card or bus pass is on the approved list, but the equivalent student travel card is not!
One in three people under 30 do not hold a driver’s licence and at the most recent Census, eight million people declared they do not hold a passport – with the cost-of-living crisis likely to make this worse.
I have been challenging the council to reach out to residents early to arrange access to a special form of ID and to reach voters where they are – ensuring we aren’t expecting people to make appointments at town halls or jump through hoops to exercise their democratic right!
Voting reform is needed. We could enable online voting as they do in Estonia; consider votes at 16 as they do in Scotland and Brazil; or set up polling stations in supermarkets and shopping centres as they do in New Zealand – leading to 6.5 per cent increase in turnout among younger people.
First Past the Post voting favours two political parties but we don’t all fit neatly into a two-dimensional ‘left-right’ spectrum and even the large parties are effectively a coalition of views. Liberal Democrats believe in wholesale electoral reform including a move to Proportional Representation, restructuring the funding of political parties and removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.
When my grandparents were born, they didn’t have the right to vote. The Representation of the People Act in 1918 gave women, younger men and those who didn’t own land the right to take part in elections. They voted in huge numbers, wanting to be sure their voice was heard in policy making for their generation.
With huge issues facing society in the coming years, it’s critical that we all have the chance to make our mark, however imperfect the system, so check your ID now or register for a postal vote – you can download a form from the Gov.UK website and send it to your local council – and make sure you have your say.
Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Mid Dorset & North Poole