Thursday 22 February 2024
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Council to write to Government opposing Voter ID at elections plan

Ashfield District Council will write to the Government opposing plans for photographic ID at polling stations.

The Cabinet Office is pushing forward with the proposals as part of the Elections Bill, with voters requiring identity cards before being able to cast their ballot.

The plans have been met with some criticism by charities and politicians, with concerns raised over the impact on the poorest in the country and those who do not currently own a passport or driving licence.

The Government says the move has been brought in to prevent voter fraud, adding its research has found 98 per cent of eligible voters currently own a form of photo ID.

The Cabinet Office added a free ‘Voter Card’ would be provided under the plans to anyone who does not possess a driving licence or passport.

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But members of Ashfield District Council voted on Thursday to write to Whitehall in opposition to the move, with some claiming it could “disenfranchise” voters or put people off taking part in elections.

Councillor Helen-Ann Smith (Ash Ind), deputy leader of the council, brought forward the motion to the council.

She said: “This is going to make it difficult for people who do not have an ID to vote, and we shouldn’t be putting obstacles in their way.

“We want to increase the turnout, we want it to be a democratic process, and we don’t want to be putting hurdles in peoples’ way.

“It’s their democratic right to vote and the Government is trying to block it. To me, that’s just wrong. People fought for generations to be able to vote, and it’s a no brainer opposing this plan.”

Cllr Tom Hollis (Ash Ind), who represents Huthwaite and Brierley, added: “There is no evidence of voter fraud [in previous elections], and if there is, it’s extremely minimal.

“I don’t understand what the Government is trying to solve here.”

However, some councillors abstained on the vote, with Cllr Christian Chapman (Ash Ind) suggesting the motion was “the wrong use of council time”.

Cllr Melanie Darrington (Ind), who represents Skegby, also abstained for the same reason.

There were a further three abstentions from the Conservatives, with 27 votes in favour.

The authority will also write to MPs Lee Anderson and Mark Spencer asking them to oppose the Elections Bill in the Commons.

Responding to the council’s concerns, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Stealing someone’s vote is stealing their voice.

“Fraud in our elections is something we cannot allow room for, so we are stamping out the potential for it to take place by requiring photographic identification.

“Our research, which draws on the most comprehensive data available to date, shows 98 per cent of the population had a form of identification that would be accepted under our proposals, and a free, local Voter Card will be available for anyone who needs it.”

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