A SENIOR SNP MP has called on the UK Government to tackle the influx of ‘dark money’ into elections rather than attempt to stamp out voter fraud.
Stewart Hosie, the party’s shadow Cabinet office minister, wa sspeaking in a debate about the upcomign Elections BIll.
The Bill aims to crack down on voter fraud by requiring the electorate to produce an item of photographic ID when they come to the polling station.
However critics say it will only deter voters, and argue the miniscule number of cases of ‘personation’ show the legislation is unnecessary.
Instead, Mr Hosie argued, ministers should be more focussed on eradicating the influence of so-called ‘dark money’ in the election process.
Dark money is a term usually referring to investment by outside influences, either companies or individuals, in an attempt to shape democratic processes. It may be in the form of donations to political parties, payments for social media campaigns or other investment attempting to influence voters or political party thinking.
Mr Hosie said: “Ninety per cent of the public think that polling station voting is safe from fraud and abuse, and they are right to think that.
“Personation, which is the only problem the voter ID provisions of the Elections Bill is designed to address, resulted in a single conviction in 2016, 2017, 2019 and zero convictions in 2018. Given that up to three and a half million people may not have suitable ID and the government’s pilots confirmed that the 324,000 people would be denied a vote in a GB election…Why is this government, prepared to embark on what is voter suppression on an industrial scale?”
Michael Ellis, Paymaster General, responded that the legislation was to give voetrs “confidence” in their ability to exert their democratic will.
He said: “It is about voters having confidence that they are not going to be subject to personation, and that they will go and vote because they know that there is not an interference in the voting system.”
Mr Hosie then argued that if it was a matter of confidence, the Government should be doing more to address the concerns about dark money in the elections system.
He exlained:”The House of Commons library reports helpfully taught us that half the public think there is inadequate regulation of political parties spending, and only 14% think there’s transparency in that area.
“There have been real concerns with dark money influencing the UK electoral system for many years, so why could it be that this government is planning to suppress the right of ordinary people to vote, rather than tackle the real problem of dark money buying influence in the democratic process?”
The minister responded that his claims had “no evidence in reality” and such statements “only do what he is seeking to avoid, and that is to actually suppress votes”.