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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Suppressing the vote

We are now in the last week of campaigning before voting in person takes place on 4th July, and thoughts are going out to those whose vote has effectively been taken off them because of the Tory Party's suppression tactics.

Individuals attending polling stations will have to produce either a specified photo identification document like a passport or a pre-approved Voter Authority Certificate. Apart from the low turnout Police Commissioner elections eight weeks ago, this is the first time this provision has been in force this side of Offa's Dyke.

Nation Cymru reports that nearly 100,000 people in Wales face losing the opportunity to participate in the general election because of this change in the law.

They say that UK Government figures show that since the July 4 election was called there have been just 57,418 applications for Voter Authoruity Certificates, which can be used at polling stations as proof of identity by people who do not have any of the accepted forms of ID they need to vote:

The deadline for VAC applications was 5pm on Wednesday June 26). The figures also show that there have been only 214,051 applications for VACs since January 2023, when they were introduced. However, that figure is still dwarfed by the nearly two million voters estimated to not have an accepted form of ID. VACs do not expire but they have a recommended renewal printed on them that is 10 years after the date of issue.

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) is warning that the rules around voter ID risk causing further confusion at polling stations on election day after thousands of voters have already been caught out by voter ID rules at local elections.

Jess Blair, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru said: “We know thousands in Wales aren’t likely to have the correct ID to vote in next week’s election, and these figures suggest many have missed out on their chance to be able to cast their vote.

“Voter ID has only been used in one election in Wales so far- in May’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections, which had a turnout of only 17%. That means that for many voters the general election will be the first where they turn up to a polling station and are asked for their ID.

“There is also a real risk of confusion in Wales. Other elections, such as the Senedd and local elections do not require voter ID, so we are left with a confusing patchwork of rules, where barriers are in place for some elections but removed for others.

“The next UK Government should look again at this damaging policy that risks many being turned away next week.”

In England, at least 14,000 people were prevented from casting their vote at the 2023 local elections due to a lack of accepted ID. This fiasco was repeated during the 2024 English local elections, with more people being caught out, including a decorated Afghanistan veteran who was unable to use his veteran’s ID card, and even Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister who brought in the voter ID laws.

Polling day next week could prove to be yet another occasion when thousands of people are denied their opportunity to have a say on who will govern the UK for the next four or five days.
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