For reasons best known to the Government, new rules around voter ID will come into force at the May local elections. But where does that leave the two million voters – many of them older people – who don’t have photographic ID?
“In the past five years,” according to The Electoral Commission’s website, “there is no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud.”
In fact, it goes on to say: “Of the 1,386 cases of alleged electoral fraud reported to police between 2018 and 2022, nine led to convictions and the police issued six cautions.”
So, if you’re looking for a reason why the Government has taken it upon itself – at an estimated cost of between £65m and £180m over the next ten years, with a “central estimate” of £120m to impose new rules around voter ID – you might need to ask someone like Chloe Smith, who was Minister of State (Minister for the Constitution and Devolution) when the measure was introduced.
According to her: “Voters must be confident, not only that their vote is theirs and theirs alone, but that their voices are heard and their vote matters. The elections bill keeps our elections free and fair and will ensure democracy across the UK continues to thrive,” she trilled when questioned at the time.
And yes, fair elections are crucial. But my back of the proverbial fag packet estimate – £120m divided by 1,386 divided by five and multiplied over 10 years – makes it £40,000 for every fraudulent vote cast.
And putting aside the bonkers amount of money involved, campaigners have been warning that the move could disenfranchise more than two million citizens – many of them older people.
How so? Well if you don’t have photo ID with you, you can’t vote.
Of course, you might well have spotted a leaflet dropping through your door telling you how to get around it by acquiring a new free “Voter Authority Certificate” instead. Personally, I have no recollection of that – but apparently it was very small and it was just one page.
Apparently, there were TV and press adverts too – again, I certainly missed those. And I wonder how many others did too. Well, we do have some sort of answer to that question, because to date (11 April) a massive 55,000 people have applied – out of said two million. And the registration deadline is just two weeks away.
How do you go about getting your shiny Voter Authority Certificate? The vast majority will be applying online… which doesn’t exactly encourage all of those who don’t have ready access to the internet. You CAN apply in writing… by downloading the form which you’ll find online.
Want to know where to send it? That address is online too, at www.electoralcommission.org.uk/voter.
Councils, meanwhile, are expressing concern that a potential “late surge of applications” will place extra pressure on their resources as the deadline to apply for a voter authority certificate edges ever nearer.
It’s not that the Government don’t know all of this. Last October, their own official “impact assessment” stated that, of those who currently lack photo ID, “approximately 29 per cent probably or definitely would not apply for the Voter Authority Certificate”. The same assessment pointed out that a Cabinet Office study had found that “older populations were more likely than people overall to report that the introduction of identification at polling stations will make it quite difficult or very difficult to vote.”
So how about the other popular route… postal voting? They’ve thought of that too. Also within the same legislation is a new measure that means that you now have to apply for eligibility every three years, involving yet more form filling (online is the preferred method of course) and inevitably discouraging many from voting.
At a time when older people are feeling increasingly excluded from our increasingly digital society, it looks like even voting for change is going to be made that much harder…
If you haven’t yet registered for a Voter Authority Certificate, or you want to help someone do so, go to: