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Local authorities to issue free Voter Cards

Written by: Emma Lunn
Legislation will be introduced so that local authorities must provide a Voter Card free of charge where a voter doesn’t have one of the approved forms of photo identification.

The move comes after plans for Brits to have to show photo identification to vote in future general elections were criticised due to the costs of obtaining photo ID such as a passport or driving licence.

At the moment, most voters in the UK don’t need to take any proof of identification to polling stations – you can simply show up and give your name and address.

But in the future voter identification will require voters to prove their identity by showing a form of photo ID, before being given their ballot paper in national and local elections. The change was announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The government is changing the rules as it says the current system allows for “inexcusable potential for someone to cast another’s vote at the polling station”. It says showing ID at the polling station is a “reasonable and proportionate approach”.

The move will bring the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland, where a form of voter identification has been in use since 1985, requiring photo identification since 2003.

But civil liberties groups and race equality campaigners say that the new law could deter thousands of lower income and ethnic minority voters from voting, as they can’t afford to buy the necessary identification documents.

What identification will be acceptable?

There will be a wide range of photographic identification which will be acceptable at polling stations.

These include:

  • Various concessionary travel passes
  • PASS cards
  • Ministry of Defence identity cards
  • Photocard parking permits issued as part of the Blue Badge scheme
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Passports
  • Free Voter Cards provided by local authorities

Expired photographic identification will also be accepted if the photograph is of a good enough likeness to allow polling station staff to confirm the identity of the holder.

Local authorities will be required, by law, to provide a Voter Card free of charge where an elector does not have one of the approved forms of photo ID, with the Cabinet Office covering the costs. A similar provision will be established for anonymous electors who will be able to apply for a free anonymous elector Voter Card should they wish to vote in person.

Most European countries, include France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, as well as Switzerland and Canada, use photo ID at polling stations.

The government has denied claims that people from ethnic minorities are less likely to have photo ID. According to ministers, 99% of ethnic minorities had a form of identification that would be accepted under the proposals.

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