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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Are the UK Government voter ID pilots in trouble?

At last, some good news. The Independent reports that Ministers' plans to introduce voter ID nationwide in elections are "falling apart" as three councils set to be involved in a major pilot have pulled out of the scheme.

The councils concerned have cited time pressures and the "volume of work" involved in participating in the trials as their reason for pulling out. Their decision raises questions over the feasibility of voter ID, which is already the subject of a legal challenge in the High Court:

The first set of trials took place in the 2018 local elections in five English boroughs and research from the Electoral Commission found 1,036 people were turned away due to incorrect identification.

East Staffordshire and Ribble Valley councils have now said they would not be participating in the 2019 round due to the scale of work involved; while Peterborough city council aired similar concerns, adding that uncertainty over the jailed MP Fiona Onasanya also complicates issues.

A spokesperson for Ribble Valley said: "Our returning officer believed the administration of the voter ID pilot on top of local government boundary changes would have been too resource intensive and could not have been carried out without potentially impacting the smooth running of the elections."

Peterborough city council added: "We have spoken to the cabinet office and due to the uncertainty surrounding the sentencing of the Peterborough MP, and the volume of work that this may entail, we have agreed with the cabinet office to withdraw from the pilot scheme in 2019."

It comes as a legal challenge against ministers' plans to rollout voter ID nationwide is set to be heard in the High Court next month after a judicial review was brought by 64-year-old Neil Coughlan earlier this year.

Rolling out the policy across the UK for a general election, according to an official cabinet office document, is estimated to range between £4.3m and £20.4m for three different models of voter ID.

The money spent on this scheme would be far better used to improve voter engagement. Instead it is putting people off voting, in a mirror image of some US states attempts at voter suppression. Surely it is time the experiment was abandoned.
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