Council opposes Government plan for voter ID in elections

East Devon District Council is calling for a postponement of the new photographic ID rules due to come into force in next May’s local elections. 

Philippa Davies

A motion opposing the introduction of photographic voter ID was carried at the full council meeting on Wednesday, December 7. 

The motion was tabled by Cllr Jess Bailey (Independent, West Hill and Aylesbeare), who described the new rules as ‘a sledgehammer to crack a non-existent nut’. She said despite millions of people going to the polls across England, Scotland and Wales in 2021, there was only one single case of ‘impersonation’.  

Cllr Bailey said the real reason behind the new rules was about ‘creating an uneven playing field designed to make it easier for Conservative candidates to win, whether in local elections or national elections’. 

Her motion, seconded by Cllr Joe Whibley (Independent, Exmouth Town) said the new rules would have the effect of ‘suppressing voter participation in the democratic process’ and would be particularly detrimental for younger voters. The acceptable forms of ID would include a passport, driving licence, biometric Immigration document, and various bus passes and travel documents issued to the over 60s. 

The motion said the voter ID requirement would also place a considerable burden on the officers presiding over the elections, and push up costs at a time when council budgets are under unprecedented pressure. 

The council agreed to ask the Local Government Association (LGA) and the District Councils Network (DCN) to raise its concerns with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and ask for voter ID not to be introduced ahead of the May elections. 

There was cross party support for the motion, although Conservatives Cllr Philip Skinner and Cllr Bruce de Sarum both voted against it. 

The LGA is already calling for the introduction of voter ID to be postponed. A spokesperson said: “While we accept that voter ID has now been legislated for, electoral administrators and returning officers should be given the appropriate time, resource, clarity and detailed guidance to implement any changes to the electoral process without risking access to the vote. 

“We support the Gould Principle whereby electoral law should not be changed within six months of an election that the change would impact.”