A Preston councillor is urging a note of caution about any plans to introduce the need to show ID before being allowed to vote.Advertisement
During the 2018 local elections five English boroughs took part in a trial of requiring anyone wanting to cast their vote to show ID, or bring their polling card, before being given a ballot paper.
Cadley councillor John Potter said he had raised a motion to Preston City Council to show the ‘strength of feeling’ about any attempt to bring in the system in Preston City Council elections.
Trials were held in Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon and were criticised by the Electoral Reform Society and a number of charities.
Read more: Labour makes two gains in Fulwood during local elections in Preston
Liberal Democrat councillor Potter said: “I think we sometimes forget what a privilege is it to live in a country that has safe, open and fair elections. Any new restrictions on people’s right to vote must be warranted, rigorously tested and be conclusive.
“The trials showed is that thousands of innocent residents were denied the right to vote to try and solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the first place.
“The question needs to be answered as to why the Conservative Government would like to implement a policy that would make it harder for the most vulnerable in society to vote in an election? You don’t need to be a cynic to see this as wanting to disenfranchise people who are less likely to Conservative rather than stop voter impersonation.
“There hasn’t been a single accusation of voter impersonation in Preston in the last 10 years yet the Conservative administration on LCC voted to support the introduction of ID checks at polling stations even before the failed trials took place.”
“Myself and the local LibDems have put this motion forward because we want to make sure the Conservatives in Preston, Lancashire and at Westminster know the strength of feeling against these proposals and that our freedom to vote in elections should never be curtailed for political reasons.”
Read more: What we learned from the 2018 local elections in Preston
The pilot scheme in May saw an estimated 4,000 people turned away from casting their vote.
Speaking at the time the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Service Darren Hughes said: “Britain prides itself on being a leading democracy – but it is a dark day for politics when thousands of blameless people turn out to vote only to be refused.
“Our estimates, based on evidence gathered by electoral observers, reveal the shocking scale of the problem. These trials have been shown up to be the chaotic, undemocratic mess many predicted.
“These findings are exactly what many feared: that this draconian measure would result in blameless individuals being disenfranchised. It is vital moving forward that these draconian trials are not a fait accompli for a national rollout.”
Cllr Potter’s motion calls for the interim chief executive of the city council to write to the Electoral Commission and the Minister for Constitution expressing the councils objection to any potential roll out of a voter ID scheme. It will be discussed at the next full council meeting on Thursday 28 June.
Preston City Council is due to see an ‘all-out’ election in 2019, as the ward boundaries are re-drawn and every councillor must stand again.
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