A motion put forward by Medway Labour which would prevent the introduction of a pilot that requires all voters to present official identification when voting in Medway has been voted down by Medway Conservatives.
Cllr Vince Maple, Councillor for Chatham Central and Medway Labour Group Leader presented the motion, he said, ‘With their poor record on engaging with the public and listening to the people of Medway, I’ve previously accused the Medway Tories of being democracy dodgers; in failing to support this motion the Medway Conservatives have officially proven themselves to be democracy deniers.
‘There have been zero incidents of voter fraud in Medway in the last ten years, and whilst we should be taking reasonable action to keep this number at zero, requiring Voter ID isn’t the answer for many reasons. Introducing Voter ID is tantamount to putting a price tag on democracy; currently more than 3.5 million people nationwide don’t have any form of photo ID and with the cheapest of which being £34 for a provisional driving license, many won’t obtain one for the sole purpose of voting.
‘The proposal risks disenfranchising marginalised groups who are less likely to have ID, such as ethnic minority communities, older people, trans people, and people with disabilities. It would also be an expensive scheme adding as much as £20 million to the cost of each general election. Considering there were 28 allegations of voter impersonation across the country last year with one conviction, the scheme would be a disproportionate measure costing £700k per allegation of voter fraud.
‘A Voter ID pilot in Medway would be dangerous for democratic participation and would be a huge burden to the council and taxpayers financially, and I’m frankly appalled by the Conservatives’ decision not to challenge its implementation.’
Cllr Naushabah Khan, Councillor for Gillingham South seconded the motion, she said, ‘The Conservatives’ attempt to paint this motion as some sort of sinister plot to commit electoral fraud made a mockery of the genuine concerns the Labour Group brought before them. In reality as the scheme is in its infancy we’re worried that a voter ID pilot will disenfranchise many from the electoral process; in some areas of Medway turnout has already been as low as 16.7%.* It’s clear from their reaction to this motion that the Medway Conservatives don’t understand what’s at stake, and are willing to openly trivialise the hurdles this will present to the people it disadvantages.’
*Turnout statistics for Strood South By election 2016: https://www.medway.gov.uk/info/200168/elections_and_voting/549/local_election_results_2014_-_2018/3
The motion reads as follows:
This Council notes with great concern the proposal to introduce voter identification (Voter ID) requirements in polling stations through the use of pilots at local government elections in 2019.
This Council meeting further notes that:
- The Electoral Commission has warned that 3.5 million electors do not have photo ID;
- There exist financial barriers to obtaining photo ID (passport: £85, provisional licence: £34/43);
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission have warned that these proposals risk disenfranchising marginalised groups in society, including ethnic minority communities, older people, trans people, and people with disabilities;
- Statistics published by the Electoral Commission show that in 2017 there were just 28 allegations of impersonation which resulted in one conviction;
- The Cabinet Office has revealed that rolling out Voter ID nationwide would increase the cost of each general election by as much as £20 million. This equates to £700k for each allegation of polling station fraud last year;
- Local authority election teams are already facing huge financial pressures after eight years of austerity.
This Council believes that:
- Requiring Voter ID will disenfranchise those who cannot afford ID;
- Requiring Voter ID risks disenfranchising marginalised groups;
- The projected cost of a Voter ID scheme is prohibitive from a local government perspective;
- Voting fraud is a serious offence, but the introduction of Voter ID is a disproportionate measure.
This Council resolves to:
- Not take part in any pilot scheme for Voter ID;
- Oppose plans to carry out further pilots that will introduce restrictive ID requirements at local elections in 2019;
- Ask the Leader of the Council to write to the Cabinet Office expressing the concerns of the council as set out in this motion, and asking them to halt the Voter ID pilots until such point as it can be proven that no voter will be disenfranchised;
- Ask the Leader of the Council to write to our local MPs expressing the council’s concerns and to seek their views on the proposal.
'...the scheme is in its infancy we’re worried that a voter ID pilot will disenfranchise many from the electoral process; in some areas of Medway turnout has already been as low as 16.7%' Cllr Naushabah Khan, Councillor for Gillingham South