New law will see THOUSANDS losing right to vote at next election

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Voter ID will be a legal requirement for elections in Great Britain from May onwards. The legislation, passed last year, was introduced to crack down on fraud, despite historically low rates of such crimes. Top of the list of acceptable forms of ID are UK passports, but census data reveals many in England and Wales do not have one. So,how many people in your neighbourhood may find themselves disenfranchised? Take a look at our map to find out.

New laws mandating voters present photo ID at polling stations in order to be issued a ballot will be in force from May 4 in England – the date of the next round of local elections – and from October in the rest of the UK.

Although common practice in Northern Ireland since 2003, the rule change will have a big impact on those voting across Great Britain in Westminster ballots, local elections in England, and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales.

The Electoral Commission specifies the number of suitable documents, including driving licenses, biometric immigration documents and a range of photo-bearing travel cards.

However, the most prominently displayed form of accepted ID is a passport.

READ MORE: Election ID laws to come into play despite low voter fraud

Recently released data from Census 2021 show 51.6 million usual residents of England and Wales (86.5 per cent) held at least one passport – leaving eight million people who had none.

Only passports issued by the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, a European Economic Area (EEA) state or a Commonwealth country will be valid for voting purposes, according to the Electoral Commission.

A total of 45.7 million people in Britain have a UK passport, while a further 3.9 million have one issued by the EU (included in the EEA). This leaves over ten million people without one.

This is a problem in East Lindsey on the Lincolnshire coast more than anywhere else.

Enter the name of your local authority into the interactive map below to see how many people may find themselves stuck at the polling station in your area…

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 36,752 people in the local authority don’t have a passport – 25.8 per cent of all residents. The figure is almost double the national average.

Blaenau Gwent in the southeast of Wales (25.5 per cent) and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk (25.1 per cent) have the next highest percentages of locals without a passport. Over a fifth of all residents in a total of 44 local authorities were found to not have a passport.

Of the top-ten councils with the highest share of people without passports, five were in Wales despite there being 14 times fewer councils in the nation than in England.

On the other hand, all ten of the areas with the smallest fraction were boroughs in London – the City (2.3 per cent) chief among them.

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Those without a lawful form of photo ID have been able to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate for free from mid-January via the Government’s website.

However, on Tuesday an investigation by The Guardian revealed only about 10,000 people in Great Britain had applied – just 0.5 percent of the two million total estimated to potentially need the document according to the Government.

At this take-up rate, it would take eight years for all in need to obtain the document. The deadline for applying ahead of the May elections in England is April 25.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said it was “encouraging that people are already aware of the Voter Authority Certificate and are applying early,” and that they were “working closely with civil society organisations and local authorities to build awareness and support those more likely to need the free ID.”

Those who do not wish to do this, can still register to vote by post – where no form of photo ID is required.

In an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said: “I think the Government was right to say that people having a bit of ID, the same as you’d have […] to go to a Post Office and collect a parcel or take a book out from the library is not unreasonable, to just give that extra bit of protection to our democratic process.”

Full Fact disputed this claim, saying the list of what constitutes acceptable ID at the Post Office was far broader, including non-photographic ID.

The Government first considered the plans six years ago, insisting then, as now, that ID requirements were vital to mitigating the “inexcusable potential for someone to cast another’s vote at the polling station.”

Voter identity fraud is exceptionally rare in UK elections. In 2021, when just under 50 million people cast ballots, there were 79 allegations of voter fraud, resulting in just a single caution being issued.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said electoral administrators and returning officers had “not been given the appropriate time, resource, clarity and detailed guidance to implement any changes to the electoral process without risking access to the vote.”

They added: “The new voter ID requirements would have several implications for councils, such as a review of polling stations, and where necessary finding new venues in time for May’s elections. We have raised concerns that there is insufficient time to do this ahead of the May 2023 elections.”

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