The government’s new voter ID rules were an attempt to “gerrymander” the electoral system which “came back to bite them”, a former minister has suggested.
Jacob Rees-Mogg made the comments having supported the proposals when he was in government under Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.
The local elections This month were the first time that voters in England were required to show photo identification in order to cast their ballots.
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Mr Rees-Mogg’s statement suggests that the reforms were an attempt to boost the Conservative Party’s support, rather than to reduce electoral fraud – as had been said in public.
Speaking at the National Conservatism conference in Westminster, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.
“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
What is gerrymandering?
An attempt to change how people vote – usually by redrawing constituency boundaries – in order to impact the outcome of elections.
He was speaking following reports that Labor was considering plans to allow EU citizens to vote in general elections if they get into government.
The local elections saw the Conservatives lose more than 1,000 council seats.
The Electoral Commission said that some people were turned away from voting due to not having ID, but it is not clear how many people were impacted.
An initial report by the commission is set to be released in June, with a full inquiry set to be published in September.
David Davis, the veteran Conservative MP, told Sky News that he did not think the voter ID reforms were an attempt to gerrymander.
“But if it were, it could turn out to be a spectacular miscalculation”, he said, as “the Conservative Party gets the predominant share of the elderly vote”.
He added that “this could blow up in our face if this was the plan”.
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The SNP has already criticized Mr Rees-Mogg.
The party’s Cabinet Office spokesperson, Kirsty Blackman, said: “Tory MP Rees-Mogg has admitted what we knew all along – that this scheme only exists as a ploy to gerrymander the next election in a desperate bid to cling to power.
“It’s no surprise that we have evidence that this draconian legislation has pushed people away from voting. Brazenly undermining democracy and shutting people out of the electoral process was exactly what the Tories designed these laws to do.”