NEW laws that will require voters to have photo ID are a blow to democracy, according to opponents.
Liberal Democrats sitting on Stratford District Council voiced their concern about the law change following a recent meeting of SDC which clarified there were no known cases of impersonation at election in the district.
Voters at next year’s council elections will have to present identification, otherwise face being turned away from the polling station.
The measure comes as part of the government’s Elections Act 2022.
But the Local Government Association and professional bodies responsible for ensuring fair elections are asking the government to delay the introduction of photo ID for the May 2023 local elections.
The LGA has said that there is a long-standing principle that changes of this magnitude should not be introduced within six months of a set of elections.
According to opponents, the plans risk preventing legitimate electors from voting in elections and disproportionately affect those who find it difficult to produce acceptable voter ID. Suitable ID would include a passport or driving licence.
Lib Dem district councillor Dr Manuela Perteghella said: “It is a fundamental principle of the democratic process that every eligible voter should be able to exercise their right to vote in a smooth and effective way. The costs of this introduction at a time of pressure on budgets is unacceptable and disproportionate to the threat of voter impersonation.
“Last Monday the Liberal Democrat peers used the strongest opposition possible in the Lords – a rarely-used Parliamentary procedure to table a fatal motion that would stop these Voter ID laws in their tracks. Sadly, the motion did not carry.
“These changes will cost council taxpayers money to introduce and will almost certainly mean that some people who don’t have the sort of documents needed will be deprived of the ability to vote. Surely the Conservatives have more important things to do than this?”
A government spokesperson said: “We cannot be complacent when it comes to ensuring our democracy remains secure. Everyone eligible to vote will have the opportunity to do so, and 98 per cent of electors already have an accepted form of identification.
“Photo identification has been used in Northern Ireland elections since 2003 and we’re working closely with the sector to support the rollout and funding of the necessary equipment and staffing.”