Voter ID introduction debated by Newark and Sherwood District Council
Concerns have been raised about plans to require voters to show photo ID at polling stations from next year.
Labor members of the Newark and Sherwood Borough Councils questioned the timing and logistics of the proposals – which come just five months before the next round of local elections
The idea, already in use in other parts of Europe, is included in the government’s 2022 Election Law.
At Thursday’s General Assembly, Labor group leader Paul Peacock tabled a motion asking the council to write to the Secretary of State for Leveling, Housing and Communities and the Chair of the Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs and requesting a delay and an investigation into the matter Voter ID Implementation.
He said: “I’ll start with the government not listening.
“They have failed to listen to the Association of Electoral Administrators, they have failed to listen to the Local Government Association, they have failed to listen to the Runnymead Trust, they have failed to listen to the Electoral Reform Society to hear, and they have failed to listen to the electoral commission.
“The motion presented represents a simple request based on the expectations of election officials across the country. They say they cannot guarantee they will have the systems, staff and documentation ready for next May’s elections.
“The motion is not being made to make a political argument, but it must be said that throughout 2019, out of the 58 million people who voted in various elections, there were only 33 allegations of identity theft at polling stations.
“The cost of implementing voter ID is a huge sum of money to throw at a problem that has minimal impact. The suggestion is that it’s £180m every ten years.
“There is uncertainty about additional resources on Election Day and there will be implications for already confused voters.”
The motion was backed by Liberal Democrat Peter Harris, who said: “Paul said there were only 33 allegations of identity theft, but there was only one conviction.
“So all this spending, all this issue is centered around someone’s 2019 conviction of identity theft.
“Nevertheless, there are many, many members of this district who cannot produce this personal ID, they will not be able to vote.”
However, Conservative Deputy Council Leader Keith Girling said: “In our current electoral system, there is an inexcusable potential for someone to cast someone else’s vote at the polling station.
“All you have to do is say who you are and what your address is, and then you can vote on that person’s behalf.
“Identifying to prove who we are is something that people from all walks of life already do every day.
“Owning a voter card will also bring the rest of the UK into line with Northern Ireland, which has used some form of voter identification since 1985 and has required photo ID since 2003, without hampering voter turnout.
“When the public has more confidence in the democratic system, they are more likely to participate.
“All eligible voters are still entitled to vote.
“New research released by the government shows that 98% of voters already have a photographic document that is on the list of acceptable forms of identification under this policy.”
Donna Cumberlidge (Labour) said: “Everyone is entitled to that vote, but they must also have the opportunity to take that vote. That’s the concern that we have less than five months to make a big change.
“This is a big change. We’ve never used this type of voting before, and this is how we’re getting the public to adapt to this change while ensuring they continue to have the right to vote.
“Big changes can take time, and you need to make sure they’re done absolutely correctly and smoothly.”
The application was rejected by a majority.