Currently, in the USA, the votes are being counted. This post is not about them.
In the UK, a Bill was published in late October describing the way in which Voter ID will be implemented in the Election Act 2022. The first use of Voter ID is declared to be in the local elections of May 2023.
I will be up for re-election as a Parish Councillor, in May 2023. But this is not about me, either. It’s actually about cuts to local authority budgets.
There are several ways in which you will be allowed – yes, allowed – to exercise your right to vote in elections. You will be required to present your passport, or your driving licence or one of a number of other authenticated photographic means of proving your identity. Apart from anything this will certainly extend waiting times at busy polling stations, but moving that aside…
We don’t all drive, and we don’t all travel, and some of us will not have any form of photographic identity card, even if that photograph still in any way resembles the voter (we all change over ten years or so). So, according o the Bill, if you have no other recourse, you can use a local authority provided id card called a Voter Authority Certificate.
Now, don’t get me wrong, local authorities do a lot of really decent work. But the austerity years have not overlooked them. My local authority recently surveyed the county asking what functions they should let go of, to save money. “A council has warned of cuts to services and job losses after it revealed a £29.3 million shortfall in the budget for next year.”
I mentioned re-election. I chair a parish council and so I’m quite familiar with interacting with our county council. Whether it is chasing an enforcement (new in post, just catching up, get to you soon, just the like previous incumbent said), or seeking licences to manage and improve local authority land within the parish (no-one in post just now, not seeking anyone yet because of budgetary constraints), well, things are tight.
So now we have central government foisting a whole new, cumbersome, costly and almost entirely unjustified responsibility onto them. New, of course. Cumbersome; well, there’s going to have to be a considerable paper-chase to establish a user without photo id already is in fact the person they say they are. Costly, goes without saying. And unjustified…
How much electoral fraud actually takes place? according to the Electoral Commission, in 2021, there were 315 allegations of fraud of which only one was taken forward to a caution and none were successfully prosecuted. According to the ONS, in 2021, there were 46,560,452 people registered to vote in parliamentary elections, and 48,844,292 people registered for local elections.
I think unjustified is, um, justified.
I am concerned that due to budgetary constraints, local authorities will be unable and possibly unwilling to carry out a statutory duty, and that will impact most severely on those least able to afford other means of identity at the very point of their best chance of changing their fortunes.
I am unsettled to think I might need to carry my id in future (notwithstanding authenticated members of the press appear currently to be being falsely detained while in proximity to climate protestors, so what value id?), but I am more concerned that at a time when being in poverty is becoming commonplace, those most in need of change are being disenfranchised from obtaining it.
(main image from Electoral Reform Society website)