ID Cards & Voting – Enlighten Me Someone?

There are some Proof-of-ID trials happening in the upcoming local elections in the UK. Naturally the system is “flawed”.

All the usual responses of course, to the infringement if individual freedoms aspects. If freedom is worth anything, it’s worth protecting IMHO. But I say:

Cock-ups like Windrush happen
because of a public attitude
to (things like) ID cards.

We should all have an ID Record. Discuss.

This can be an extended record across multiple institutional databases, as we have with cars – MoT, Tax, Insurance, Registration, Ownership – are linked electronically these days, and very effective in my experience – good example of where state gets computer systems right. Even NHS, general practice / hospital / consultant records are pretty well joined-up these days and identity is crucial to safety and confidentiality here. Cock-ups will happen of course, but things are generally pretty good compared to earlier shambolic non-integrated record-keeping.

Of course once the information has a rights and politics angle the stakes are raised and everyone has an opinion about public records. Windrush is  classic example, sure there are plenty of policy debates to be had about unintended consequences of non-benefit-of-the-doubt default positions on status and rights, the Home-office “climate” created by such choice, and the wisdom of destroying old paper heritage, and so on, but we need to be careful not to conflate issues.

I still find it amazing that individuals who have been successfully living in the UK since the 50’s and 60’s, who must have had an NI number, must have some health record, must have registered for some public services along the way, can successfully apply for a passport without their citizenship and residence status being validated! They’d really have to be some strange exceptions to “normal” life? How could anyone discover for the first time that they don’t have formal UK citizenship or residency after getting a passport and going abroad?

Everywhere else we’ve lived, US and Norway, it has been perfectly normal to need to know and show state registration or ID, with (say) a driving license or a credit card being a surrogate record, for practically any transaction in life. How hard can it be?

Sure people who are “marginal” for any circumstantial or choice reason, may not have the flexibility of a highly populated record, to correlate at multiple points, but a certain minimum of validated data as members of “society”. Surely, even the discovery that the system doesn’t consider you a member is a benefit over ignorance. Especially if you’re planning to participate in a vote.

Say you turn up to vote without any evidence of ID? You are allowed to vote, but the vote is routed or tagged to an “ID to be validated” pile, like any marginally spoiled or doubtful (hanging chads anyone) votes cast. If the poll is in any way marginal in relation to the sizeof the doubtful pile, these are unravelled by scrutineers, after the first count, etc. It’s not hard. The doubtful ID doesn’t even have to be linked to the individual vote cast, simply to the polling station record.

I think I know most of the confidentiality and abuse downside risk arguments, and certainly care is needed when benefit of the doubt issues arise, or temporary uncertainty when not having any evidence of identity on one’s person. But I am baffled why not being able to prove one’s ID remains such a cause celebre in the UK, especially when participating in elections. Isn’t being registered to vote already saying you’ve been through some ID and rights validation before the day you turn up to vote?

What am I missing, I’m all questions.
Enlighten me someone?


Also published on Medium.

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