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Government could face legal challenge over voter ID pilots

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The government could face a legal challenge over its plans to continue piloting voter identification at May’s local elections.

Braintree DC resident Neil Coughlan has engaged law firm Leigh Day and launched a call for funding to support the challenge on the crowdfunding website crowdjustice.com.

Mr Coughlan, who does not have any form of photo ID, said the requirement to show ID before voting is disproportionate to the scale of the problem of voter impersonation.

He said: “The government has designed voter ID as a solution to tackle the specific issue of voter impersonation in polling stations… however, this kind of fraud is an incredibly rare event, in fact, I cannot remember a single incident in my council district in the forty years I have lived here.”

Mr Coughlan’s legal team argue the government is acting unlawfully as it does not have the power under the Representation of the People Act 2000 to restrict voting rights.

According to the Electoral Reform Society, 350 voters were disenfranchised across five council areas during the first round of pilots in May this year. Twelve councils are due to participate in a further round of pilots this May. 

In June the society shared legal advice it had received which suggested the pilots were unlawful as they had been ordered through secondary legislation and not subject to scrutiny by MPs.

Society director of policy and research Jess Garland said the government would be better focusing its efforts on the bigger problem of online campaigning during elections.

She said: “With millions of people lacking photographic ID, it is no surprise the government are potentially facing a legal challenge to their ‘show your papers’ policy.

“Ministers should stop wasting time and taxpayers’ money pursuing these dangerous and undemocratic plans, and focus on the real democratic problems Britain faces instead: not least the ‘wild west’ in online campaigning.”

Writing for LGC in August, Chloe Smith, minister for the constitution, said voter ID was a  “common sense approach to making our elections among the most secure in the world.”

She added: “We must produce photo ID to get something as straightforward as a library card, yet we vote on the future of our communities without needing to prove it is us making that choice.”

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Is this the same Neil Coughlan who failed to get elected as a Labour candidate on Braintree District Council in 2015? Adds a bit of context to the story doesn't it...

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