Political leaders have reacted angrily to voter ID requirements ahead of next week’s local elections.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, has branded the government’s decision to ensure voters have photo ID to cast a ballot at the polls on 4 May as “blatant ID gerrymandering” and expressed his concerns at the potential disenfranchisement of thousands of people.
From this year, elections nationwide will require voters to carry photographic ID with them to cast a ballot at their polling station.
As of next week, those hoping to carry out their democratic duty will have to carry with them a driving licence, passport or other acceptable form of identification as per new Whitehall-mandated guidelines. This has come in following the passing of the Elections Act 2022 through Parliament last April.
The practice is already in place in Northern Ireland but is a first of its kind in England, Wales and Scotland. Mr Rotheram acknowledged the government said it was hoping to tackle voter fraud but gave the move a short shrift. Addressing the Liverpool City Region combined authority, he said: “This supposed voter fraud is so rife that the electoral commission confirmed there had been nine convictions and six police cautions issued in relation to electoral fraud in the last five years.
“Such a huge issue though. There are more ministers that have been forced out of office for wrongdoing in that time, but conversely there has been no tightening up of the problems of malfeasance at a national level, but voter fraud is obviously a huge priority.”
Those hoping to cast a vote next week will need one of the following: A passport, driving licence – including provisional licence, a Blue Badge, older or disabled person’s bus pass, identity card with Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) mark, a biometric immigration document, a defence identity card or certain national identity cards. However, a student card or Merseytravel pass will not be accepted.
The Metro Mayor said he feared the consequences of people being locked out of their democratic right. He said, “It’ll come as no surprise to working class people and those from minority ethnic backgrounds that they’re more likely to be affected by this policy and I’m genuinely concerned about how this will affect people who turn up without ID, who are turned away, will they return to the same polling station again to take part in our democracy? That’s to be seen.
“The changes will mean that 2m people who don’t have valid photo ID will be excluded from the democratic process as the government seeks to impose a solution to a problem that demonstrably doesn’t exist. It’s right that as democrats we call out this blatant ID gerrymandering and we’ll do everything we can to ensure people do get the opportunity to vote but I’m really concerned about those who will be excluded.”
Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, echoed the thoughts of the Metro Mayor. She said, “We all know this is an audacious and cynical attempt at voter suppression, where six cases have been used to potentially disenfranchise up to 2m voters.
“We know our residents can’t use their Merseytravel pass, despite having to produce the identical information and evidence that they need for the national pass they get at state pension age.”
Image: Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, Leader of Wirral Council Janette Williamson