Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Voter ID: stark warning to apply for paperwork now or be refused a vote in May elections

Concerns have been raised that people may be turned away from polling stations as they've failed to realise there has been a change in election law.

Maidstone resident Rachel Rodwell says she is worried at the prospect that many voters do not know they will need to present photo ID at the ballot box at the next elections on May 4.

Don't miss out on your chance to vote
Don't miss out on your chance to vote

While a photo driving licence or passport will be acceptable forms of ID, the government has estimated that 2m people don't have these.

It has therefore set up a mechanism whereby voters can apply for something called a Voter Authority Certificate.

But the take-up has been very slow – only around 10,000 have been issued to date – and the deadline to apply for one in the May elections – of 5pm on Tuesday, April 25 – is fast approaching.

Mrs Rodwell said it was likely to be young people and the most disadvantaged and least well-off members of society who would not hold the necessary ID, and would be excluded from voting.

She asked a question at the last Maidstone Full Council meeting as to whether the borough proposed to keep a record of the number of people turned away at May's elections and whether it would publish the figure.

Cabinet member Cllr Paul Cooper (Con) said the council, as a political body, did not run the elections – that was the role of the borough's returning officer – but he said she would be following the legislation.

Rachel Rodwell from Allington
Rachel Rodwell from Allington

The Elections Act 2022 requires returning officers to keep a record of the number of would-be voters refused a ballot and report this to the Electoral Commission, but there is no provision for the figure to be made public.

Mr Rodwell said she did not understand why not. In the interests of transparency that figure should be publicly available, she said.

Returning officers currently do declare the number of spoilt ballots at each election, where people have cast a ballot but in an unacceptable or unreadable way.

The change in the law is intended to reduce voter impersonation, but critics say that it is likely to also reduce the turnout, and may skew the results in favour of one party over another.

Mrs Rodwell said: "Young people may think they have ID because they carry a student card or an Over 18 card, but these are not among the acceptable documents and they are likely to be turned away."

Students are among those likely to end up disenfranchised
Students are among those likely to end up disenfranchised

She said: "They will not have a bus pass and may well not have a driver's licence.

"Frankly I don't think the government is too worried about this because younger people are less likely to vote Conservative – the new system is likely to help the Conservative party at the polls.

"That is why it is essential that the public knows how many people are prevented from voting this May, so that if necessary, changes can be made before the next general election."

In May, there will be elections in every borough in Kent and in Medway, which is a unitary authority, as well as in scores of parish councils.

Acceptable forms of ID include a British or Commonwealth passport, a UK driving licence provided it has a photo ID, a Blue Badge, an Older Person’s Bus Pass, Disabled Person’s Bus Pass or Oyster 60+ Card

Rachel Rodwell asks her question in the council chamber
Rachel Rodwell asks her question in the council chamber

Anyone without one of those should apply for a Voter Authority Certificate, but must be on their local electoral register to do so. They will need to provide their National Insurance number.

Applications need to be made online to the government rather than the council, here.

Voters will also need a certificate if they no longer look like the photo on their ID or if the name on their ID is different from that on the electoral register.

There is a national helpline to answer queries on 0800 328 0280.

Mrs Rodwell, from Allington, said: "Voter ID will potentially disenfranchise millions of voters across the country and yet the level of voter fraud it is intended to combat is miniscule.

Rachel Rodwell was frustrated by the council's response
Rachel Rodwell was frustrated by the council's response

She said: "I can’t believe that this is being introduced without basic safeguards and transparency particularly as the impacts are potentially huge and damaging for democracy.

"I will continue to press for the data after the election as the public really do need to understand the level of damage being wreaked on our electoral system.”

One way around the need for ID is to register for a postal vote.

The government has estimated there are 47m registered voters in the UK of whom 2m are without ID – or 4.2% of voters.

There are 130,000 registered voters in Maidstone, so using the same proportion would suggest that around 5,460 people could miss out on the chance to vote unless they get their skates on and apply for ID now.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More