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CHARITIES and academics called on the government yesterday to urgently rethink its decision to run a pilot scheme in which voters will have to show identification to vote in May’s local elections.
More than 40 organisations and professors have written to Constitution Minister Chloe Smith to say that the requirement would result in millions of poorer people being denied a vote if implemented nationwide at the 2022 general election.
The Electoral Commission has warned that 3.5 million people have no form of photo identification. Eleven million – 24 per cent of the electorate – do not have a passport or photo driving licence.
The coalition is led by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) and includes Age UK, the National Union of Students, Operation Black Vote, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, St Mungo’s and Stonewall.
In the letter, they say only 28 allegations of voter impersonation were made last year, when nearly 45 million votes were cast — and that just one allegation led to a conviction.
ERS chief executive Darren Hughes said: “Electoral fraud is a serious issue, but mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
In May, voters in Bromley, Gosport and Woking will need to show either one form of photo ID or several non-photo forms, such as utility or council tax bills.
Those without ID must obtain a certificate of identity or local election card. Applications for these require proof of ID and a reference from a person of good standing in the community.
Swindon and Watford are piloting poll cards. Voters who forget to bring theirs to the polling station must present another form of ID.
Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement Cat Smith said: “This government must urgently rethink its plan, to keep democracy as open and accessible as possible.”
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