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 Bad news: the Conservatives are planning another attempt to introduce ‘voter ID’ to elections. Historically, their attempts have been corrupt.

Good news: they may have shot themselves in the foot with a plan that has good elements that may be separated from the vote-rigging parts by Parliament.

Let’s look at the historic aspect of this:

The most recent Tory attempts to address voter fraud have been attempts to force people to provide photo-identification at polling stations – prompting criticism that they were trying to obstruct supporters of Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, who don’t normally carry such identification, from voting. This has been borne out to a large degree by the results of pilot projects in certain constituencies.

They did not address fraudulent postal votes in any way. This also led to criticism that the Tories had ignored the only voting method that has produced a significant volume of electoral fraud in recent years – because any such fraud is likely to boost their own electoral score.

Boris Johnson’s new ‘voter ID’ plan seems to tackle both issues – with an attempt to address postal vote fraud that might be worthwhile, alongside the demand for photographic identification at the polling station. It also addresses the complaint of voter disenfranchisement by proposing that local councils issue free photographic ID to anybody who needs it, at a cost of up to £20 million at every election.

The latter proposal is entirely pointless. There is no fraud at polling stations worth mentioning. The record shows only one conviction for voter impersonation at the last election.

Good news: Parliament could separate the pointless and expensive demand to show photo ID at the polling station from the worthwhile attempt to address fraud in postal votes, leaving us with a decent piece of legislation that does not corruptly improve the Tories’ chance at a general election.

But that is supposing that Boris Johnson and his Conservative government intends anything in the Queen’s Speech next week to actually become law – and that is a major stretch of credibility.

Shall we put a pin in this and see what happens?

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