With less than six weeks to May’s local elections, the problems with the government’s rollout of their disastrous rollout of voter ID are clearer than ever.
As we race towards polling day concerns about the worryingly low level of awareness of the new rules continue to grow. This week the Mirror revealed that one in four voters wrongly believe they won’t need ID to vote in May’s local elections.
Voter ID is the biggest change to how our elections work in a generation and the fact that, even now, so many remain unaware of these changes is deeply worrying.
What is more concerning is the lack of take-up of the free Voter Authority Certificate (VAC) for those without photo ID – the scheme has issued just 35,000 of these VACs – barely a drop in the ocean when we know around two million people lack the required ID.
The government have long claimed that their free ID would ensure that nobody is unable to cast a ballot, but these figures show that the vast majority of those who need one are yet to register – meaning we could see thousands turned away on election day.
But ministers remain worryingly relaxed about the impact of voter ID – local government minister Lee Rowley recently dismissed the claims that 2 million people might be impacted as inflated, arguing that many of this group will choose not to vote anyway which will come as little relief to those who find themselves turned away on polling day.
But we know that one voter turned away is one too many and the government must ensure that this dangerous policy isn’t allowed to put the integrity of our elections at risk.
Last week we joined other campaign groups to unveil a giant map outside Parliament showing just how many people, the government’s own figures, believe lack the required ID to vote.
Speaking with MPs from across Westminster we made the case that across the country, in every region, millions of voters are at risk of being denied their vote in May’s elections.
With large parts of England holding elections in just a few weeks and many of these decided at ward level by just a handful of votes there are real fears that the new ID rules will have a material impact on the election results causing anger and confusion.
In Newcastle council bosses are preparing for the worst– putting in place plans to deploy bouncers to “hotspot” polling stations where council staff fear arguments will break out over new voter ID laws.
Even at the eleventh hour, there is still time for the government to change direction. There is still time to save our elections and scrap this unnecessary policy before it’s too late.
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The government’s voter ID scheme risks the very principle of free and fair elections.
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