Staff running local elections in May risk being “overwhelmed” by bureaucracy and complaints before and on polling day because of new rules requiring all voters to produce photo ID in order to cast their ballots.
The warning has been issued by the Local Government Association (LGA) amid rising concern that the requirements are too strict, and inadequate preparation has been done to inform voters that the rules have changed. Ministers say the move, piloted in several local authorities at previous local elections in England – though with lighter touch restrictions – is essential to root out extremely rare cases of voter fraud.
Critics of the reform, including the main opposition parties, estimate that the change will mean more than a million voters being “disenfranchised” because they don’t have photo ID such as a passport or driving licence, or find out too late to apply for a voter authority certificate (VAC), which will be accepted as a substitute.
Senior Labour figures have complained that the new system is rigged in favour of the Tories because it offers more ways for older voters to satisfy ID requirements, such as, in London, allowing over-60s Oyster cards to be used, while Oyster cards for younger people will not be permitted.
James Jamieson, a Conservative councillor and chairman of the Local Government Association, told the Observer: “Raising public awareness of these new requirements is crucial, and we remain concerned about the potential for electoral staff to be overwhelmed with enquiries and voter authority certificate applications when polling cards go out.
“Electoral administrators and returning officers also need urgent clarity and detailed guidance to implement any changes to the electoral process without risking access to the vote.”
Last week, the Liberal Democrats secured an urgent question in the House of Commons forcing the local government minister, Lee Rowley, to answer MPs’ concerns. This came after government data showed fewer than 21,000 people out of an estimated 2 million who will require VACs had applied for them. With just a few weeks to go before polling day on 4 May, only 505 people aged over 75 had applied, and fewer than 6% of applicants were aged under 25.
May’s local elections could determine whether Rishi Sunak is ousted or not depending how bad they are. Many people have been worried about the photo ID requirements could lead to a tainted set of elections. The fact that James Jamieson, a Conservative councillor and chairman of the LGA has publicly questioned how these requirements could lead to problems on voting day.
If it turns out voter disenfranchisement has taken place this would be another damaging mark for Sunak and the toxic Tories in general, quite frankly it is something you would expect to see from the modern day GOP. If the Tories were genuinely worried about electoral fraud they would crack down on the flaws with postal voting. But as the Tories do well with postal voting I am not shocked they haven’t focussed on that.