MORE than 8,000 voters could be “disenfranchised” at South Gloucestershire’s elections because of a new law requiring them to show proof of identity at the polling station, it has been claimed.
The elections in May will be the first for which residents will have to show an accepted form of ID – and face being barred from voting if they do not have one.
Lib Dem councillor Tristan Clark told a council meeting in February: “The number of voters who lack an accepted form of ID in South Gloucestershire could, under the Cabinet Office’s own assessment, exceed 8,000 people. Will polling station staff be recording the number of people they turn away for lacking the requisite form of ID, so that proper analysis of the residents disenfranchised by this rushed and ill-conceived legislation can occur?”
Council cabinet member Ben Burton insisted that the changes in last year’s Elections Act had not been rushed.
The Conservative councillor said a trial in 2018 in Swindon had been followed by a “a robust and comprehensive review” by the Electoral Commission of the number of people voting.
Cllr Burton said: “In that instance it did not cause a significant change in voting habits, and actually turnout was higher than the previous election in 2016. The arrangements are in place to ensure that the democratic process remains secure and that voting will hopefully remain high.
“The actual list of acceptable forms of ID is incredibly long. We are talking passports, driving licence, biometric immigration document, identity cards, MOD ID, blue badge, national identity, old person’s bus card, Oyster card, freedom passes and a whole host more.”
More information about ID and how to apply can be found online at beta.southglos.gov.uk/voter-id. Anyone who is not online can also apply in person, by calling 01454 863030 and making an appointment to visit the council offices in Yate.
People applying for the free ID need to have their National Insurance number and a recent photo to hand.
Cllr Burton said that 56 people in the district had applied for a free ‘voter authority certificate’ by early February.
Electoral Commission research found voters less likely to have an accepted form of ID are over-85s, people with disabilities, trans and homeless people.
The deadline to register to vote is April 17, postal vote applications must be made by April 18 and proxy vote and for free ID applications by April 25.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service