THE UK Government is committing a “brazen attack on democracy” by mandating voter ID and exerting more power over the elections watchdog.

The Tories have been accused of trying to “silence the opposition” and of “disenfranchising” marginalised voters with the Elections Bill that was passed in the Commons last night.

Naomi Smith, CEO of the democracy campaign group Best for Britain, said the bill would “stack the deck” for the government in future elections.

She said: “Not only will this bill allow the Government to disenfranchise vulnerable groups to tackle a problem that doesn’t exist, but it also allows them to ban their critics from campaigning and gives them an iron grip over the currently independent elections watchdog.

“Make no mistake, the true aim of this bill is to silence opposition and stack the deck for future elections. It is a brazen attack on our democracy.”

Ministers were also accused of attempting to “dodge scrutiny” over controversial parts of the bill.

Dr Jess Garland, director of policy and research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The Government’s Elections Bill proposals are less about improving our democracy than they are an attack on voters’ ability to cast their ballot and have their voice count.

“Ministers have attempted to dodge scrutiny over key parts of this bill and the result is a dangerous mix of proposals that risk shutting voters out of our democracy and weakening the integrity of our elections.

“From plans to shut voters out from the ballot box for lacking the right ID, to ministers’ power grab over our independent elections watchdog, this bill stands to damage democracy.”

Brendan O’Hara (below), the SNP’s deputy spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, called the bill a “fundamental assault on democracy”.

The National: Argyll and Bute's SNP MP Brendan O' Hara

The MP said: “These are incredibly dangerous days for our democracy.”

The bill will enforce voter ID checks at polling stations – something opponents say will discourage people from marginalised groups, many of whom do not own photographic identification, from voting.

Voters without ID will be provided with one free of charge but opponents say this will still deter significant numbers from voting.

The Government maintains tackling voter fraud is a national priority despite there being little evidence to suggest the practice is widespread.

There were 595 cases of alleged voter fraud across the UK in 2019, according to the Electoral Commission.

The independent body set up to monitor UK elections said only four of these led to a conviction and two people were given a police caution.

Voters in Holyrood elections and Scottish local government elections will not need to show photographic ID before voting – but will at UK General Election ballots.

The bill will also allow ministers to set the priorities of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission – a body which is supposed to be independent of the government and which has warned such oversight would “place a fetter” on it.

The bill will now be scrutinised by the House of Lords before becoming law.