The need for photo ID at elections is “out-and-out barefaced voter suppression” from a “desperate and authoritarian” Conservative Party, according to a Gloucestershire Liberal Democrat council leader.

Voters will need to take ID to the polling station to be able to vote in person in this May’s local elections, after new legislation was passed by Parliament.

Gloucestershire County Council passed a motion this week which calls to raise public awareness about this change and to minimise the risk of voter disenfranchisement due to unawareness and lack of preparedness.

The motion was put forward by Labour’s Wendy Thomas (L, Dursley) but then amended by the Conservatives.

However, County Councillor Joe Harris (LD, Cirencester Park), who is also the leader of Cotswold District Council, hit out at the “scandalous” new legislation.

He told those present at Shire Hall on Wednesday March 22 that many people do not have photo ID and said the Government’s PR campaign about it was “garbage”,

“It’s a scandal quite honestly. This is out-and-out barefaced voter suppression from a desperate and authoritarian right wing Conservative Party. Let’s say it as it is.

“That is exactly what it is. There’s no evidence to suggest there’s large-scale voter fraud in this country. There just isn’t.

“It’s not there. What is the problem we’re trying to solve here? There isn’t a problem.”

He asked Labour councillors to make sure they have a commitment to repeal this legislation if the Tories lose the next general election.

Conservative Council leader Mark Hawthorne (C, Quedgeley) stressed the importance of people not being deprived of their vote by impersonators.

He said the motion which was being debated is about making sure the process is fully and properly funded and promoted which his group is fully supportive of.

“Statistics will never prove there is a voter fraud issue in this country because the method by which voter fraud can be committed is so easy it is laughable,” he said.

“Suppose someone spots that my neighbour is on holiday on polling day. House is empty, locked up.

“All someone would need to do is wander down to the polling station and say ‘I’m Mrs Smith, I’m from number X, Estcourt Road and I’m here for my vote. Unless that person in the polling station personally knows that individual they will simply issue the ballot paper and that’s it, done.

“My vote is my voice and as it currently stands, anybody could impersonate me in the ballot box and take my voice away and that’s not fair.”

The motion was approved by 26 votes in favour, 22 abstentions and one against.

The motion calls on the council leader to support district councils by writing to the minister for the Cabinet Office to ensure adequate funding for the organisation of local elections, staff recruitment, training and for public awareness raising.

This is to minimise the risk of voter disenfranchisement due to unawareness of, and lack of preparedness, with the new requirements.

The council believes that it is important that voting remains accessible for all and that the application process for a free voter card should be easy and accessible.

They have also committed to actively cooperate with the district councils to support the promotion of public awareness, the making of applications for voter cards and their timely issuing.

By Carmelo Garcia – Local Democracy Reporter

Gloucester News Centre – http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk

Voter ID is ‘barefaced voter suppression from desperate Tories’, council leader says by | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/
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