After a council voted to oppose mandatory voter ID, more could follow suit

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 25th June 2021

A council in Scotland will write to the Prime Minister to formally oppose plans to bring in voter ID at future general elections, the Daily Record has reported.

Renfrewshire councillor Kenny MacLaren brought forward a motion at a meeting on Thursday arguing the move could have a detrimental impact on turnout, and called on members to reject the UK Government’s proposal. It was overwhelmingly passed by councillors. Could more follow suit?

Voter ID would be imposed across the UK for General Elections if ministers pass the controversial policy in the upcoming Elections Bill.

The policy – revealed in the Queen’s Speech – will mean someone who forgets to bring ID, or who lacks ID altogether, will be turned away and denied a vote.

But the government’s own data shows that around two million voters do not have an acceptable form of ID – meaning they are at high risk of being locked out of our democracy.

For cash-strapped councils, this policy looks like an expensive distraction – at a cost of up to £20m to administer per General Election.  It represents an attack on devolution, with devolved councils in Scotland and Wales forced to turn away voters they know, simply for not possessing the ‘right’ ID. If a Holyrood election is held on the same day as one for Westminster, voters without ID look set to be denied a vote – despite neither Scotland or Wales’ governments wanting to impose this dangerous policy.

It’s also unnecessary. One councillor described mandatory ID as a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’, given there is zero evidence of widespread wrongdoing by voters.

In fact, new research from the Electoral Commission shows public confidence in the running of elections is at its highest level on record.

Four in five respondents are confident that elections in the UK are well run, up from 71% last year. Satisfaction with the process of voting (86%) is also at a record high.

The real concern among voters isn’t people going round impersonating someone else in the ballot box, but the fact that trust in parties funding sources is at rock bottom, having been in decline since the Commission’s research began. Only 14% of respondents said they believed political finance was transparent, down from 37% in 2011.

Council workers do not want to be turned into bouncers at the polling station. They – and voters – trust their local elections. What they don’t trust is the millions in dark money that can be funnelled into parties with almost no transparency.

Ministers are slightly less keen to crack on with tackling that problem…

Are you a councillor concerned by this policy, or would you like your local councillor to pass a similar motion? Get in touch:

Do you agree with the councillors? Sign our petition

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