FactCheck: Why will voter identification be required for elections in Great Britain and what ID will polling stations accept … – Channel 4 News


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From May 2023, people in England, Scotland and Wales will need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations in some elections.
The government has said that “we cannot be complacent” when it comes to ensuring a secure democracy, but experts have said the new changes are “discriminatory” and “unnecessary”.
So, what is voter ID, what is the government-issued certificate and why is photo identification at elections being made a requirement?
Here’s what you need to know.
From 4 May 2023, voters in England will need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations in local elections, Police and Crime Commissioner elections, UK parliamentary by-elections and recall petitions.
From the same date, voters in Scotland will need to show photo ID at UK parliamentary by-elections and recall petitions, and in Wales at Police and Crime Commissioner elections, UK parliamentary by-election and recall petitions.
From October 2023, the requirement to show photo ID will also apply to UK General elections.
In Northern Ireland, voters have been required to show ID since 1985, and photo ID since 2003.
You don’t need a photo ID to vote by post.
You will only need to show one form of ID, but it needs to be the original version and not a photocopy.
You can use any of the following accepted forms of photo ID when voting at a polling station:
– Passport or driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth country
– A Blue Badge, Older Person’s Bus Pass, Disabled Person’s Bus Pass, Oyster 60+ Card, Freedom Pass
– Scottish National Entitlement Card
– 60 and Over Welsh Concessionary Travel Card, Disabled Person’s Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
– Senior SmartPass, Registered Blind SmartPass or Blind Person’s SmartPass, War Disablement SmartPass, 60+ SmartPass issued, Half Fare SmartPass – all issued in Northern Ireland
– Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)
– Biometric immigration document
– Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)
– National identity card issued by an EEA state
– Electoral Identity Card issued in Northern Ireland
– Voter Authority Certificate
– Anonymous Elector’s Document
If you don’t have an accepted form of voter ID, you can apply for a free voter ID document, known as a Voter Authority Certificate.
You need to register to vote before applying for a Voter Authority Certificate. When you register to vote, you’ll be asked whether you have a photo ID or if you want to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.
The deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate will be 5pm six working days before the date of the election. You can apply for a certificate online or by post.
Since 2014, the Electoral Commission has recommended that ID should be required in Great Britain before voters are issued with a ballot paper.
In 2015, the Commission published a report on delivering and the costing of a voter ID scheme, which cautioned that accessibility was fundamental and any scheme should be backed up by a free voter card for those without an alternative.
In August 2016, the then-government Anti-Corruption Champion, Lord Pickles, published a report on electoral fraud which highlighted the trust-based nature of polling station voting and recommended that the government should consider voter ID.
Pilots of the scheme were held in 2018 and 2019, with the government declaring them a success following its own evaluations and committing to introducing a voter ID scheme.
At the time, the government said that the overwhelming majority of people were able to vote and “there is no indication that any consistent demographic was adversely affected by the use of voter ID”, but the Local Government Information Unit criticised the Cabinet Office evaluations as being an “optimistic interpretation of extremely limited evidence”.
A policy paper published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in January 2023 said the requirements to produce photographic identification are “common” in democracies across the world, including most European countries.
The paper said the photo ID requirement is “widely acknowledged as an effective system for preventing electoral fraud” by ensuring that someone is who they say they are when voting, and therefore representing “the most straightforward and proportionate solution to the vulnerabilities in our elections”.
The upcoming introduction of photo ID being required to be able to vote at elections has proved controversial, with concerns it will discriminate against certain groups of people and could cause chaos at polling stations.
The Electoral Commission said some groups are more likely to experience barriers with this new change and may need support to access photo ID, with packs for organisations in England created to help them raise awareness and to support voters with applying for a Voter Authority Certificate if needed.
Disabled people, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, older people, people experiencing homelessness, people who are registered to vote anonymously, and Trans and non-binary people have been identified by the Commission as likely to need support with the new voter ID requirement.
Dr Ben Stanford, Senior Lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University, told FactCheck that preparations for the new system “are being rushed through with very tight deadlines”, and that measures that could be put in place to mitigate the risks, such as provisional voting where people lacking ID can vote subject to later verification, are not being implemented.
Prof Stanford said the new voter ID requirements are “certainly more strict than necessary to meet policy objectives and resemble the strictest laws seen in some US states”.
He added that strict requirements also tend to have “a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities and the elderly, and disadvantaged groups such as unemployed people and people with disabilities”.
Prof Stanford explained that the key to mitigate some of these concerns is the government’s free voter authority certificate, but it has already encountered problems including the application portal not being ready when a massive publicity campaign led by the Electoral Commission was launched in January.
The Guardian also recently reported that only about 10,000 people in Great Britain have applied for a government-issued voter identification since the scheme opened, this being just 0.5% of the total who might need the document.
Prof Stanford said given that an estimated two million UK adults currently lack the required photo ID to vote in polling stations, this is “quite an alarming statistic and suggests that hundreds of thousands of voters may be effectively disenfranchised”.
Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, told FactCheck that the poor take-up of the government’s authority certificate – with less than 100 days until May’s elections – could see millions facing “being turned away from the ballot box” on polling day.
She said that “the restrictive list” of accepted IDs “only makes this policy worse” as “allowing bus passes and Oyster cards for older voters but refusing to accept the same forms of ID for young people is the kind of democratic discrimination that makes voter ID so dangerous”.
“It’s time that ministers think again about this unnecessary policy – if they don’t, they risk chaos at the polls in May and risk undermining free and fair elections across the UK,” Dr Garland added.
A government spokesperson told FactCheck: “We cannot be complacent when it comes to ensuring our democracy remains secure.
“The Electoral Commission is running an awareness campaign precisely so everyone knows a free voter certificate is available. The vast majority of people already have a form of acceptable identification and we are actively supporting the very small proportion of people who may not.
“Photo identification has been used in Northern Ireland elections since 2003 and we’re working closely with the sector to support the rollout and funding the necessary equipment and staffing.”

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