American-style voter ID legal guidelines are coming to Britain

May 15, 2021

V.OTING IN MAINLAND UK is amazingly easy. You show up at a polling station and give your name and address. An officer finds your name on a list, draws a line through the list, and then gives you your ballot. The question must have occurred to many people: Couldn’t someone else pretend to be me?

Listen to this story

Your browser doesn’t support this

Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.

A lot of Britons believe that a lot happens. In early 2019, pollster Ipsos MORI found that 58% of respondents thought someone else was a serious problem at the national level. When asked why they thought so, some said they had heard of fraud in the media, while others cited local rumors. Some said it was just human nature.

In fact, personal identification was once widespread in Northern Ireland, which is why the province has required identification since 1985. It is extremely rare elsewhere in the UK. If someone shows up at a polling station and finds that their name has already been crossed out, they will receive a “written out” ballot. Only 1,359 of them were issued in the December 2019 general election out of a constituency of 47.5 million, and ballots cast are issued for other reasons as well. Personal fraud was alleged 33 times that year, resulting in a conviction and a warning.

Still, the government judges the threat to the democratic process to be sufficient to warrant a major change in electoral rules. On May 11, she announced that she would legally require personal voters to produce photo identification. This is more difficult in the UK, where people do not need to carry ID, than in countries where they do. Driving licenses and passports are accepted. This also applies to the bus passes of pensioners and the “blue badges” held by disabled people. Anyone without an approved photo ID can apply for a free card.

Such a change would not stop many people from voting. Seven local authorities asked voters for various forms of identification in May 2019 after warning they would do so. On average, 0.4% of potential voters who were asked for ID did not show it, were turned away and did not return to the polling station.

But many more could come to the conclusion that voting has become too cumbersome and no longer cares. “Not everyone is as excited about elections as we are,” says Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society, who speaks out against the change. Each effect is likely to be uneven. A poll for the government found that 10% of non-whites were less likely to vote in person if they had to show photo identification, compared with 5% of whites.

This article appeared in the UK section of the print edition under the heading “The End of Innocence”.

Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc hits historic low in voter ballot

BERLIN, GERMANY – APRIL 23: Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) sits at the Bundestag on April 23, 2020 in Berlin. Germany is still at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and will have to live with it for a long time, said the Chancellor.

Maja hitij

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative alliance has hit an all-time low, deepening an obvious shift in electoral trends in Germany.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, recorded a drop in popularity to 23% in the latest voter poll conducted by Kantar for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The poll of 1,910 Germans found that support for Merkel’s CDU-CSU bloc had fallen again, from 24% the week before, to hit the lowest level in the history of the weekly poll.

In the meantime, the Green Party remained in the lead with 26% of the vote, although its rating was also down 1 percentage point from the previous week. In third place in the survey was the Social Democratic Party, the current junior coalition partner of the CDU-CSU, with 16%.

The center-left SPD announced on Sunday that the current finance minister, Olaf Scholz, would lead his election campaign. In the vote in September against Annalena Baerbock from the Greens and the candidate of the center-right CDU-CSU, Armin Laschet, he will stand to replace Merkel.

Honeymoon of the Greens?

To show how much voter trends are changing, the Green Party has moved from a fringe movement to a contender for governance. If current polls are confirmed in the elections, the German government will do so, very likely with one or two coalition partners.

The economists at Deutsche Bank, led by Stefan Schneider, stated that with coalition options “(at least arithmetically) nothing is impossible”.

“Annalena Baerbock and Armin Laschet’s nominations as candidates for chancellor clearly helped the Greens to gain ground. Not only could they be the kingmaker for the next government, but they could now even appoint the next female chancellor for a whole range of coalition options,” said economists in a note on Friday.

The economists at Deutsche Bank stated that they still consider a black-green government (a coalition with the Greens led by the CDU-CSU) to be slightly more likely than a Green-led traffic light coalition with the SPD and the Liberals (the FDP -Political party). Only the right-wing AfD was excluded from everyone else as a partner.

“It remains to be seen whether the honeymoon for Ms. Baerbock and the German voters will last until election day in September, as the green candidate for chancellor will now have to explain to the voters how exactly she intends to implement her political proposals,” they added.

Covid crisis

Merkel’s departure after four terms heralds a change in German politics. However, the coronavirus crisis could also have resulted in the CDU-CSU bloc falling out of favor for dealing with the pandemic – a challenge for any government.

While Germany’s initial handling of the public health crisis has been praised – it managed to keep the initial spread relatively under control with a robust track and trace system and modern hospital infrastructure that kept deaths low – it is as the third wave of infections in Europe stalled earlier this year.

In addition, the country’s vaccination campaign was sluggish. Only 9.7% of Germany’s adult population have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, 34.3% have reportedly received at least one dose of a shot from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. France, Spain and Italy have given higher numbers of people two doses, ECDC data shows.

As of Sunday, Germany has eased restrictions on people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from a recent Covid-19 disease, which means that the rules for social contact, quarantine after travel and a nightly curfew for these people no longer apply.

To date, according to the Johns Hopkins University, Germany has recorded over 3.5 million infections and 84,844 deaths.