‘Voter SUPPRESSION’ RESISTEDLast Ditch Bill Introduced to Scrap Mandatory Voter ID in England’s Elections this May
Lib Dems are trying to reverse the legislation they fear will cause chaos at the ballot box, while activists warn that trans people may be excluded by photo ID
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Today the Liberal Democrats will stage a final attempt to halt the government’s mandatory voter ID plans for the May elections in England, Byline Times can reveal.
MP Helen Morgan will introduce the Elections (Voter Identification Requirements) Bill, a new piece of legislation which would remove the requirements for identification to vote at all future UK elections. The Bill is co-signed by 11 other Lib Dem MPs.
Alongside Labour and other opposition parties, the Lib Dems opposed the voter identification rules in both the Houses of Commons and Lords, but were ultimately defeated by the Government.
Concerns have been raised about the ability of local authorities to enforce these new regulations, as well as the lack of awareness among the general public of the changes.
If this new piece of legislation makes it through the Houses of Parliament, it would end voter ID regulations just 36 days ahead of the May local elections.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Local Government, Helen Morgan MP said: “This new Bill is the last chance to kill these new Voter ID regulations once and for all.
“If the Conservative Government does not allow our Bill to pass, thousands of people could be blocked from voting at the next election. Liberal Democrats will not stop fighting for the fundamental right to vote and for the principles of democracy itself.”
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Critics of the voter ID plans argue that there have been almost no proven cases of electoral impersonation in England in the past decade. They also say that mandatory voter ID would dangerously undermine UK democracy by raising barriers to participation in elections. Even voters with ID may forget it and then not return to vote.
Opposition to voter ID has grown in recent months, with rights groups arguing it would discriminate against marginalised groups less likely to have valid forms of identification, and some councils and police forces warning of a potential rise in conflict at polling stations if people are unfairly denied a vote.
Northern Ireland voters are required to bring ID, but this was introduced after hundreds of proven cases of organised, sectarian voter fraud in successive elections.
Voters will have no right to appeal if they are denied a vote after polling staff refuse to accept their identification this May, Byline Times previously revealed.
Around two million people are estimated to lack the “right” kind of photo identification in Britain. But even when they have ID, voters can be turned away this May in swathes of England if “the Presiding Officer decided that the photographic ID raised a reasonable doubt about the identity of the elector, the Presiding Officer reasonably suspected the photographic ID was a forged document, or if the elector failed to answer a prescribed question satisfactorily.”
The bill comes as trans-led organisation TransActual has told supporters to register for a postal vote rather than bring photo ID this May, amid concerns they could be turned away if their presented gender on their ID does not closely resemble their currently-presented gender.
As jane fae, director and co-ordinator of TransActual’s ‘Don’t lose your vote’ campaign told Byline Times: “Voter ID is just the latest in a series of ill-thought-out measures, introduced over the last decade, to impact the right of trans people to vote. Previously, government has listened to our concerns; but not this time.
“We are concerned that a key issue for trans people around providing ID is not just that it is harder to get if you are trans. Many trans folk are actively triggered by images of them in early transition and so reject photo ID.
“We are also concerned that new powers given to the checking officer in each polling station to reject an individual, if they are not satisfied with their ID, with no right to appeal could become a charter for trans exclusion.”
She added that Electoral Commission advice pointing trans people to the new free Voter Authority Certificate, distributed by councils, is “unhelpful”. “We have, from the start, advocated that trans people opt for postal voting as less stressful and less open to transphobic manipulation,” TransActual’s director said.
Dr Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society told Byline Times in January: “Voter ID is the biggest change to how our elections are run in a generation. One that’s being rushed through by ministers despite knowing full well that millions lack the necessary ID.
“Everyone from experts and campaigners to those who run our elections have called on the Government to stop these plans or risk chaos at the polling station in May. It’s time they listened to those who know and scrapped this dangerous policy before it’s too late.”
The introduction of voter ID in England comes after the Government changed the voting system for mayoral elections from the two-preference system of a supplementary vote to first-past-the-post – effectively penalising smaller party voters like the Greens and Liberal Democrats that are more likely to have transferred their vote to Labour. Labour figures including London Mayor Sadiq Khan have branded the move a partisan stitch-up.
Government Tries to Calm Fears
Figures released by the Electoral Commission on March 10 showed a “significant jump” in voters’ awareness of the new voter ID requirement – however, a third of people were still unaware they needed to bring photo ID in May: 63% of people now know they need to bring ID to vote in a polling station, compared with 22% when the question was first asked in December 2022.
On 9 January, the Commission launched a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of the new requirement ahead of the local elections on 4 May this year. The campaign will continue to run up until polling day.
Commenting on the figures, Craig Westwood, Director of Communications, Policy and Research at the Electoral Commission, said: “The elections on 4 May will see a significant change in how we vote, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see such a significant increase in people aware of the need to bring ID. This is a testament to the hard work done to raise awareness by the electoral community, as well as by our civil society and charity partners, and political parties.”
Fourth May is the first time at any election in Britain – outside of a handful of local trials – that voters will need to show photographic ID to vote. Accepted forms of ID include a driving licence and a passport, as well as some concessionary travel passes such as an older person’s bus pass. Young people’s Oyster cards and Railcards are not accepted, leading to claims of voter suppression from democracy groups. Voters will be able to use expired ID if they are still recognisable from the photo.
Applications for a free voter ID certificate can be submitted online, or by completing a paper form and sending this to the local council’s electoral services team. To be able to vote on 4 May, those who need free ID must apply by 5pm on 25 April. Voters need to provide a passport-style photo, full name, date of birth, the address at which they are registered to vote and their National Insurance number. Byline Times received a certificate which arrived quickly from a London council, but was printed on thin A4 paper.
A spokesman for Rishi Sunak told Byline Times previously that the new measures were “reasonable” in order to combat “potential fraud”. “There will be a campaign to raise awareness in advance of this being used,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
“This as I have said on a number of occasions [is] something that has been in place in Northern Ireland since 2003 with no significant concerns and we believe it is a totally reasonable approach to combat potential fraud in our system”.
The Lib Dem bill stands little chance of becoming law as the government will not support it.
Elections (Voter Identification Requirements) Bill
Bill to remove the requirement for voters to show an identity document in order to vote; and for connected purposes.
Presented by: Helen Morgan
- Layla Moran
- Richard Foord
- Munira Wilson
- Mr Alistair Carmichael
- Jamie Stone
- Sarah Green
- Wera Hobhouse
- Sarah Olney
- Daisy Cooper
- Christine Jardine
- Ed Davey
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