Thousands face being locked out of general election

Thousands of people across the Liverpool City Region could be denied the chance to have their say in this summer’s general election.

With less than four weeks to go, preparations are ramping up for the national poll at the beginning of July.

The deadline for candidates to be registered for the 650 constituencies across the UK has now passed and we now know who will be fighting for our votes.

However, new data has indicated thousands in our area could miss out on their democratic right because of restrictive new voting laws.

As of last year, elections nationwide have controversially required voters to carry photographic ID with them to cast a ballot at their polling station. Those carrying out their democratic duty need 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. The practice is already in place in Northern Ireland but was the first of its kind in England, Wales and Scotland.

However, huge numbers of people across the Liverpool City Region face being shut out of the election in 24 days’ time. Data from Survation and Royal Holloway, University of London estimates that more than 44,600 people in the region are registered but lack the proper ID.

The highest number of voters facing disenfranchisement is in Rock Ferry, with 17% of electors currently without relevant ID. This equates to more than 1,700 people.

In St Helens, 15% of voters in Parr (1,200) are currently unable to vote along with a further 1,487 people in Belle Vale in Liverpool, accounting for 13% of its electorate. More than 10% of voters would be locked out from the process in Liverpool city centre, Whiston and Old Swan at this stage.

The man who drove through the voting ID reforms – Boris Johnson – fell foul of his own rules when he turned up to cast a ballot in May’s London Mayoral vote without the correct ID.

Chris Hanretty, Professor of Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London, said, “The vast majority of registered voters have photo ID, but a small proportion don’t, and that small proportion gets bigger in some areas. If just a few of these voters without ID turn up to vote, we can expect lots of stories about people being disenfranchised.”

The move was widely criticised ahead of last year’s Liverpool Council all-out elections, with Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, branding it as “blatant ID gerrymandering”. Members of the city council also put forward a motion calling for the government to look again at the decision.

In its statutory report, produced in September 2023, the Electoral Commission found that some people found it harder than others to show accepted voter ID, including disabled people, younger voters, people from ethnic minority communities, and the unemployed.

The Commission and others have recommended the list of allowable ID be reviewed and consideration be given to making the voter ID rules more accessible to the most affected groups.

However, the Government rejected calls for additional types of ID to be added to the list, saying the implementation of voter ID was “conducted efficiently with very few voters initially turned away”.

People without an existing acceptable form of voter ID can apply online or by post for a free Voter Authority Certificate (VAC). The deadline to apply for a VAC in order to vote in the Parliamentary General Election on Wednesday, 26 June at 5pm. The full list of accepted ID can be found at https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/voting-and-elections/voter-id/accepted-forms-photo-id

To vote in the 2024 General Election you need to be registered to vote by midnight on Tuesday, 18 June, 2024. You can register to vote here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The deadline for a new postal or postal proxy vote – and any changes to existing postal votes – need to be in by 5pm on Wednesday, 19 June, 2024. You can apply for a postal vote here >>> https://www.gov.uk/apply-postal-vote

Voters who want to vote in person at a polling station must take photographic ID. The list of allowable ID is on the Electoral Commission’s Voter ID pages.

Voters without one of the listed types of photo ID can apply for a voter authority certificate (VAC). The Electoral Commission’s Applying for a Voter Authority Certificate pages  explains how to apply.

Temporary VACs can be issues for a specific polling day if someone loses their VAC or it is not delivered. This can only be done under specific circumstances and the election team at a local council is the best place to deal with requests.

A temporary VAC may be issued up to 10pm on polling day, but if issued a voter must get to the polling station before 10pm in order to vote.

Polling day is on Thursday, 4 July, between 07:00 – 22:00.

Additional reporting by Annie Gouk and Birkenhead News

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