“Yyou can Get a free bus ticket here until you’re 60, but you can’t use it,” exclaimed Janet Williamson, the Labor leader of the Merseyside Wirral Council. Ms Williamson wasn’t talking about public transport , but talking about voting. New rules require eligible voters to show photo ID On May 4, the ballot box will face its first major test in local elections.
Passports and driver’s licenses are accepted everywhere, but other forms are required ID vary.In London, Wales and Northern Ireland the Over 60 Travel Pass is acceptable (photo ID has been required since 2003).Elsewhere, only travel passes over 66 granted at the state retirement age are OK“It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to us,” Ms Williamson said.
The changes, pushed by the administration last year, were ostensibly to allay concerns about election security. Supporters point to high-profile, if isolated, examples of fraud. Most egregiously, the 2014 mayoral election in Tower Hamlets was canceled.
Opponents argue that the new rules will dampen turnout for certain groups of voters. Photo bus, student and rail cards carried by young voters who are unlikely to vote Conservative are not acceptable.People with severe disabilities, the unemployed and those who have never voted are less likely to have a photo ID.
Whether the new rules will have long-term effects on election integrity or voter suppression is up for debate.Pretending to be someone else at the polls, which voter’s question ID Aiming for rehab, it’s rare: In the eight years to 2021, there have been just three convictions.In other places where identification is required, such as Canada, Switzerland and some states in the US, studies have not shown a causal relationship between voters ID Laws and depressed turnout. (Indeed, a new study in the U.S. suggests that more people may be present in communities that feel they are being deliberately targeted.)
This still leaves the potential for immediate confusion. Details of the new voting requirements won’t be finalized until December 2022, just months before local elections for officials to get their message across. At the time, the Conservative-led Local Government Association, a cross-party body representing more than 300 local authorities, called for a delay in making the rules amid potential pressure on election workers.
“This is the biggest change in polling places in a generation,” Peter Stanyon said. CEO Association of Election Administrators, the body representing election officials. “It’s very disappointing to have this stuff rolled out so late.” Local officials are the ones who have to turn away people who don’t have the right form ID“People are concerned about the safety of the staff because if you do have angry voters, the staff is actually very vulnerable.”
There may be a lot of depressed people.As of February, 37% of voters believed that ID unnecessary.A government study found that 4% of voters (approximately 2 million people) do not have a suitable photo ID. Such voters may apply for a free “Certificate of Voter Authorization.” Only 60,000 have done so so far; the deadline to apply is April 25. “It’s a big mountain to climb,” said Craig Westwood, who leads communications for the committee.
Given the slim advantage of local democracy, losing some voters could have a big impact (experience shows that people who are denied leave from polling stations do not all return, even if they have valid voter ID ID at home). For example, in last year’s local elections, two seats on the Wirral council were decided by just under 100 votes; two seats also happened to be the size of a Labor victory.
It could undermine confidence in the system if voters are turned away in droves or swayed by a minority of voters who cast the wrong vote. “Confidence will always be at the heart of our role and a key indicator of the election,” Mr Westwood said. “It’s very difficult to build up. And it’s easy to lose.” ■
For more expert analysis of the UK’s biggest news, subscribe to Blighty, our weekly subscriber newsletter.