NEW laws that will require voters to have photo ID are a blow to democracy, according to opponents.
Green Party members sitting on Warwick District Council voiced their concern about the law change at a recent meeting of WDC.
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.
Green Party member Coun Will Roberts said: “I’m very worried that the highly-respected Local Government Association and Warwick District’s Chief Executive are concerned about the impact on the democratic process. Also how will these reforms impact young voters. How come a bus pass for anyone over 60 is a valid form of ID, yet rail and student cards aren’t valid, meaning on average young people will be discriminated against compared to older voters?”
WDC Chief Executive Chris Elliott said: “In my role as Returning Officer, Warwick district’s Chief Executive and Electoral Registration Officer I do have concerns about the introduction of such major changes so close to scheduled elections. They are reflected nationally.
“As we do look ahead, every single member of my Electoral Services Team and members of the polling station teams want people to vote, because that’s why we are here. But we realise that there may be potential instances of electors not being able to vote because they do not comply with the new regulations.”
A government spokesperson said the move was necessary.
They 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.”