In May this year some of us will be asked to vote for our Councils and it is also possible that the Government could hold a General Election at the same time. They are not currently planning to do so, but many of us have called for an urgent General Election following the changes that took place last year. One of the details that the Government has set out for a Council election in May 2023 is a new law called “Elections Act 2022” which means that those of us who vote must provide a photo document to participate. At the end of December a member of the House of Lords called Lord Roger Roberts asked some questions on that theme to inform many of us. The person who responded was Baroness Jane Scott who is the Minister for Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. She stated a number of aspects and these included
The voter identification measures set out in the Elections Act 2022 will come into effect for the scheduled election in May 23 for all types of poll set out in the Act, except for UK Parliamentary general elections, which will require voter identification from October 2023.
So interestingly if the Government does set out a General Election this May, that people can vote without needing a photo document but they would need to have a photo for their local election. The response from Jane Scott on these questions went on to state that
A wide range of identification documents will be accepted at polling stations and will not be limited to only passports and driving licenses. A full list of acceptable identification can be found here. Cabinet Office research shows that 98% of electors already own a photographic document (in date or expired) that could be accepted under our proposals. Moreover, any registered elector who does not possess any of these forms of identification will be able to apply to their local authority to obtain a Voter Authority Certificate, free of charge.
And a few words later she said
We will continue to work with local authorities, charities and civil society organisations to ensure that voter identification works for everybody.
It will be very interesting to find out which charities are involved and also how our Councils will respond as we approach the May elections. A few days before those questions and answers arose, there was a discussion about Council Tax that took place on the 12th December and one of the people who spoke was Lloyd Russell-Moyle who is the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown. He spoke about a number of themes but some of his comments were.
The Conservative party and this Government talking down the safety of our electoral system is exactly what these voter ID regulations are about. It my view, it is extremely dangerous. I asked numerous times in Committee on the Elections Act 2022 for a public assessment of why certain forms of voter ID are acceptable and others are not. I was particularly concerned about why student cards and young people’s cards will not be accepted. Not once have the Government published their rubric of why certain ID cards will be accepted and others will not.
It will be interesting to find out not only how the Councils and charities are being called to work with the Government but also if the rubric will have been published. It is clear that along with the MPs who were opposed to the Elections Act 2022 that a group of them also endorsed a document back in October 2019 under the title of “Voter ID requirements at polling stations“. The starting information was
That this House expresses deep concern at the Government’s announced plans to prevent people from voting unless they can provide photographic identification at the next election
and they pointed out that over 44 million voters in 2017 took place and that only 28 people were allegations of in-person voter fraud at that time. So those MPs “calls on the Government to urgently review its proposals.” Three of our local MPs supported this document at that time, they were Lloyd, Caroline Lucas the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and Stephen Lloyd who was then an Independent Eastbourne MP. The total 71 MPs included Labour, SNP, Liberal Democratic and Plaid Cymru members. Along with that document from some MPs a public petition was set out in March 2021 which reached over 102,000 people in the UK and nearly 3,500 people in Sussex. There is this new petition which is being promoted on the same theme but so far there are not many responses. However, we clearly now need the Government and our Councils and any other agencies to communicate with us before May so that we know what to expect.