Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Political Reform, Alistair Carmichael, has today condemned government “doublethink” on mandatory identification requirements. The government recently rejected a petition against mandatory voter ID, arguing that all voters should have photographic identification in order to vote. This weekend, however, it also rejected a petition calling for mandatory photo identification in order to use social media, citing the fact that “3.5 million people do not have a valid photo ID”.
Government proposals to mandate photo ID before the next General Election have proven controversial, with critics including the Liberal Democrats and the Electoral Reform Society citing the extremely low rates of voter personation and the risk of millions being discouraged from voting due to lack of ID in opposition to the plans.
Mr Carmichael said:
“When George Orwell described ‘doublethink’ in 1984 it was not supposed to be an instruction manual for government. To take these statements at face value it would suggest that the government cares more about people having ready access to cat videos on YouTube than to their democratic rights at the ballot box.
“It is a contradiction in terms to argue that the government must not discriminate against those who do not have photo ID in order to use the Internet but – at the same time – absolutely must discriminate against voters who do not have photo ID. You cannot have it both ways. I happen to agree that we should not mandate ID in order to use the Internet, but that should not be more intrinsic than the right to vote.
“The government is at least being inadvertently honest about its intention to deter millions of people from voting. If it had any shame at all, this would be the time to withdraw its illiberal, anti-democratic voter ID scheme.