Anti-racist and Bame organisations have warned the government that its plans to require ID at polling stations will lock black and ethnic minority people out of democracy.

In an intervention timed to coincide with Windrush Day, groups including the Runnymede Trust, Hope Not Hate and the Race Equality Foundation said government policy amounted to the “importing of US-style voter suppression to the UK”.

Ministers want to make it compulsory for voters in England, Scotland and Wales to show ID cards before they can cast their ballot, but the plans are highly controversial because different demographics are more likely to have valid ID cards than others.

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Groups demographically more likely to support the government like white people and older people are significantly more likely to already have photo ID, leading some critics to claim that the ministers are trying to suppress turnout of their opponents’ supporters.

Suspicions have also been raised because in-person voter fraud is a non-existent problem under the UK’s current system, with just one person convicted a year – out of proportion to the push for the policy.

The government says people without an existing form of ID will be able to apply for an electoral ID card, but the groups said this aspect of the policy “represents another barrier to voting that will put many off – with a postcode lottery in terms of how easy the cards are to acquire in each of the 300+ councils of the UK”.

“We are writing to sound the alarm at government plans that will make it harder for people to vote,” the groups say.

“The government is intent on pushing ahead with a voter ID which will have a disproportionate impact on Bame people.

“We are deeply concerned that – since there is no universal ID in the UK – this show-your-papers plan represents an importing of US-style voter suppression to the UK.”

The groups cited data showing that white people are most likely to hold one form of photo ID, with 76 per cent holding a full driving licence compared to 31 per cent of Asian people and 48 per cent of Black people.

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The statement was signed by Dr Zubaida Haque, interim director of The Runnymede Trust, Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, Pragna Patel director of Southall Black Sisters, Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation, and the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate.

They added: “The Windrush scandal showed what can happen when millions of people who lack ID are shut out by government. We must not risk a rolling Windrush scandal here, with Bame and marginalised groups locked out of our democracy. Ministers must think again.”

A pilot of voter ID laws was carried out at the 2019 local elections. The Electoral Commission, which administered the pilots, said it was “not able to draw definitive conclusions from these pilots about how an ID requirement would work in practice, particularly at a national poll with higher levels of turnout or in areas with different socio-demographic profiles not fully represented in the pilot scheme”.

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Black Lives Matter protesters gather across the UK

Shape Created with Sketch.
Black Lives Matter protesters gather across the UK

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People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis
A girl wears a face mask during a Black Lives Matter rally in Parliament Square
People are seen by a mural of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Stevenson Square, Manchester
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Children pose for their family in front of discarded placards fixed on a wall in Piccadilly Gardens after a Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Manchester
People shout slogans during a Black Lives Matter rally in Parliament Square
A demonstrator holds up a placard during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square
A demonstrator gestures during a Black Lives Matter protest in Manchester
A mounted police officer raises their baton as police horses ride along Whitehall, past the entrance to Downing Street, in an attempt to disperse protestors gathered in central London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bute Park, Cardiff
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally march on Vauxhall Bridge Road, London
Protesters hold up signs as they march along a road during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Aylesbury

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People climbing on top of the Queen Victoria Statue as they take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Children pose for a photo during a Black Lives Matter protest at Parliament Square
Demonstrators hold placards as they attend a protest march to the US Embassy in London
Protesters demonstrate near the the US Embassy in Nine Elms in London
Protesters in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square
Demonstrators wearing protective face masks and face coverings hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest in Leicester
A demonstrator is seen during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square
Demonstrators are seen as police officers look on during a Black Lives Matter protest near Downing street in London
Demonstrators are seen wth police liaison officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Luton
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square
Demonstrators wearing protective face masks and face coverings hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest in Leicester
Demonstrators block traffic outside Victoria Station
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Custom House Square, Belfast
Police on horseback in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
Protesters hold placards as they attend a demonstration in Parliament Square
Demonstrators throw flares above a police line during a Black Lives Matter march in London
People climbing on top of the Queen Victoria Statue as they take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Demonstrators raise their hands facing police officers after scuffles during a Black Lives Matter march in London
People are seen placing placards on a fence in London
A demonstrator is seen with a protective face mask during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
A sign alternatively naming Wilson Street ‘Rosa Parks Street’ in Glasgow. Activists have put up names of black people and civil rights activists throughout history alongside street names around the Scottish centre as part of the ongoing worldwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd
Boxer Anthony Joshua is seen with demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
Demonstrators kneel facing police officers after scuffles during a Black Lives Matter march in London
Demonstrators lay on the pavement during a Black Lives Matter rally at Trafalgar Square
A protester stands on bus stop and raises their hand during a Black Lives Matter protest at Parliament Square
Protesters holding placards gather in Manchester
A man gestures during a Black Lives Matter march in in London
A demonstrator wearing a protective face mask during a Black Lives Matter protest in Leicester
A protest placard is affixed to the plinth of a statue of the Duke of Wellington on the second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Deansgate, Manchester
Demonstrators stage a Black Lives Matter Protest in Leicester city centre
A demonstrator points towards a mounted police officer laying in the road after being unseated from their horse, during a demonstration on Whitehall, near the entrance to Downing Street
A ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) protest at Parliament Square
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Protesters in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
Protesters in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square
Protests at Parliament Square in London
A demonstrator holds a placard during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
Demonstrators hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
Protesters hold placards as they march through central London
Protesters kneel as they hold placards during a demonstration in Manchester
A mother and son hold up a sign during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Aylesbury
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
Demonstrators are seen standing on top of a bus stop wearing protective face masks and face coverings as the Black Lives Matter protesters march to the Home Office in London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest in Manchester are seen by a mural of George Floyd
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
A demonstrator is seen wearing a protective face mask as the Black Lives Matter protesters march to the Home Office in London
Demonstrators with a flare are seen during a Black Lives Matter protest near Downing street in London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bute Park, Cardiff
Protesters hold up signs during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Aylesbury
A protester raises his arm during a second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bute Park, Cardiff
Placards are seen during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Protesters holding placards gather at the Queen Victoria monument for a second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens
Protesters hold placards as they attend a demonstration in Manchester
A woman kneels during a Black Lives Matter rally in London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis
A girl wears a face mask during a Black Lives Matter rally in Parliament Square
People are seen by a mural of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Stevenson Square, Manchester
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Children pose for their family in front of discarded placards fixed on a wall in Piccadilly Gardens after a Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Manchester
People shout slogans during a Black Lives Matter rally in Parliament Square
A demonstrator holds up a placard during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square
A demonstrator gestures during a Black Lives Matter protest in Manchester
A mounted police officer raises their baton as police horses ride along Whitehall, past the entrance to Downing Street, in an attempt to disperse protestors gathered in central London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bute Park, Cardiff
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally march on Vauxhall Bridge Road, London
Protesters hold up signs as they march along a road during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Aylesbury

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People climbing on top of the Queen Victoria Statue as they take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Children pose for a photo during a Black Lives Matter protest at Parliament Square
Demonstrators hold placards as they attend a protest march to the US Embassy in London
Protesters demonstrate near the the US Embassy in Nine Elms in London
Protesters in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square
Demonstrators wearing protective face masks and face coverings hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest in Leicester
A demonstrator is seen during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square
Demonstrators are seen as police officers look on during a Black Lives Matter protest near Downing street in London
Demonstrators are seen wth police liaison officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Luton
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square
Demonstrators wearing protective face masks and face coverings hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest in Leicester
Demonstrators block traffic outside Victoria Station
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Custom House Square, Belfast
Police on horseback in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
Protesters hold placards as they attend a demonstration in Parliament Square
Demonstrators throw flares above a police line during a Black Lives Matter march in London
People climbing on top of the Queen Victoria Statue as they take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Demonstrators raise their hands facing police officers after scuffles during a Black Lives Matter march in London
People are seen placing placards on a fence in London
A demonstrator is seen with a protective face mask during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
A sign alternatively naming Wilson Street ‘Rosa Parks Street’ in Glasgow. Activists have put up names of black people and civil rights activists throughout history alongside street names around the Scottish centre as part of the ongoing worldwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd
Boxer Anthony Joshua is seen with demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
Demonstrators kneel facing police officers after scuffles during a Black Lives Matter march in London
Demonstrators lay on the pavement during a Black Lives Matter rally at Trafalgar Square
A protester stands on bus stop and raises their hand during a Black Lives Matter protest at Parliament Square
Protesters holding placards gather in Manchester
A man gestures during a Black Lives Matter march in in London
A demonstrator wearing a protective face mask during a Black Lives Matter protest in Leicester
A protest placard is affixed to the plinth of a statue of the Duke of Wellington on the second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Deansgate, Manchester
Demonstrators stage a Black Lives Matter Protest in Leicester city centre
A demonstrator points towards a mounted police officer laying in the road after being unseated from their horse, during a demonstration on Whitehall, near the entrance to Downing Street
A ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) protest at Parliament Square
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Protesters in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
Protesters in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square
Protests at Parliament Square in London
A demonstrator holds a placard during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
Demonstrators hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest in Watford
Protesters hold placards as they march through central London
Protesters kneel as they hold placards during a demonstration in Manchester
A mother and son hold up a sign during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Aylesbury
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
Demonstrators are seen standing on top of a bus stop wearing protective face masks and face coverings as the Black Lives Matter protesters march to the Home Office in London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest in Manchester are seen by a mural of George Floyd
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
A demonstrator is seen wearing a protective face mask as the Black Lives Matter protesters march to the Home Office in London
Demonstrators with a flare are seen during a Black Lives Matter protest near Downing street in London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bute Park, Cardiff
Protesters hold up signs during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Aylesbury
A protester raises his arm during a second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bute Park, Cardiff
Placards are seen during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
Protesters holding placards gather at the Queen Victoria monument for a second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens
Protesters hold placards as they attend a demonstration in Manchester
A woman kneels during a Black Lives Matter rally in London

The government is, however, pressing ahead with the plan, which was included in the Conservative manifesto. They argued that the measure would “protect the integrity of our democracy”.

Voter ID laws have a long history as a partisan issue in the United States, where they tend to be introduced by Republican state administrations who rely on white voters for the overwhelming majority of their support. Critics point to many of the same factors handing a partisan advantage to the laws’ proponents.

Voter ID requirements are common in continental Europe, but many of the same issues do not apply as these countries tend to have national ID card schemes where cards are already mandatory for all. A similar system is in place in Northern Ireland, where electoral ID cards are issued free of charge.