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Saturday, January 12, 2019

UK Government challenged in court on ID voting trial

I reported last year how the introduction of ID checks for all voters in pilot areas, had led to an estimated one in five polling stations turning away voters for not having ID. This just reinforced the perception that the motive behind this idea was voter suppression, and had nothing to do with tackling voter fraud, which is at fairly miniscule levels.

The Electoral Commission says there were only 21 cases of alleged in-person voter fraud in 2014, 44 in 2016, and 28 in 2017 - just 0.000063% per vote cast.

Five areas, Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking, piloted the anti-fraud scheme in last May's local elections. Voters were told to show their polling card or full photo ID, depending on which area they lived in. But reports swiftly emerged of people being turned away. That was also evident on social media as people tweeted their experiences or the experiences of others that they had observed.

The Democracy Volunteers group published a shocking snap report that claimed voters were refused a ballot paper because they did not have the correct ID in 21% of polling stations. This was equal to about 1.7% of all voters across the five pilot areas being turned away, the group. The study did not count whether any or all of those voters came back with the correct ID, but that is unlikely in the majority of cases.

As I suggested in December 2016, measures used in some Republican controlled US states such as Florida, of introducing barriers to voting for ethnic minorities and poorer communities have been in place for some considerable time, with decisive effects in close elections.

Given that the Electoral Commission say that 3.5 million electors or 7.5% of the electorate, would have no acceptable piece of photo ID, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Tories are attempting to replicate this outcome.

But now a pensioner has issued a legal challenge to the government’s voter ID pilots. As the Mirror reports, Neil Coughlan, 64, says he doesn't have photo ID and believes many of his neighbours don't have the documents to allow them to vote either.

He believes that Voter ID will unfairly discriminate against himself and others across the country and is seeking permission from the courts to apply for a Judicial Review.

The problem for opposition MPs, is that the Government is forcing these pilots through parliament using secondary legislation, meaning they will not have the opportunity to scrutinise the plans. According to Neil’s legal team, the Government through the Minister of the Cabinet Office is acting unlawfully in doing so, as it does not have the power under the Representation of the People Act 2000 to introduce pilots like these which restrict voting rights.

To cover his legal fees, Mr Coughlan, has set up a crowdfunding page and already raised over £20,000. Good luck to him I say.
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