Future UK elections to require photo ID to vote; Student ID not eligible

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The UK Government has recently confirmed that all voters in England will need to show photo ID in order to vote in future elections, including the upcoming local elections in May. This is a result of the 2022 Elections Act, passed by Parliament in early 2022, and will apply to all local elections, Police and Crime Commissioner elections, parliamentary by-elections and recall petitions starting from May 2023, and all general elections from October 2023.

The Electoral Commission has also released a list of all forms of photo ID which will be accepted as valid at polling stations. The accepted forms of ID include UK passports, UK driving licenses (both full and provisional) and cards in the PASS scheme (such as Citizencards), as well as a number of other forms of ID mostly exclusive to groups such as disabled people and the elderly (such as blue badges and Oyster 60+ cards), but does not include student ID.

This means that any student who does not own any form of photo ID other than their student ID will not be able to vote in any future elections, unless they either get an accepted form of photo ID in time for the election they want to vote in, or apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.

A Voter Authority Certificate is free, unlike most forms of photo ID, which can be expensive to apply for (new passports cost over £75 and provisional driving licences cost £34), and allows people who do not hold a form of photo ID to vote, provided they have an address and National Insurance number.

The Electoral Reform Society have criticised some of the omissions on the list of acceptable ID; for example, Oyster 60+ cards are accepted but Oyster 18+ cards are not, despite both featuring a photo of the holder and their full name.

In a statement to The Big Issue, Dr Jess Garland, director of policy and research at the Electoral Reform Society said: “Allowing bus passes and Oyster cards for older voters but refusing to accept the same forms of ID for young people is the kind of democratic discrimination that make this bill so dangerous.

“If the government wants to improve elections in the UK it should be finding ways to encourage voter engagement – especially amongst young people who typically turnout less at election time.

“The Elections Bill is a full fronted attack on our democracy – and one that could see millions shut out from polling stations on election day.

Allowing bus passes and Oyster cards for older voters but refusing to accept the same forms of ID for young people is the kind of democratic discrimination that make this bill so dangerous

Dr Jess Garland

They also successfully campaigned to pass an amendment in the House of Lords that included student ID, library cards and bank statements as acceptable forms of ID, but this was repealed by the Government.

In response to these complaints, a Government spokesperson said: “The Election Act delivers on the Government’s manifesto commitment to introduce voter identification and will ensure that our elections remain secure, fair, transparent and up to date. 

“This will bring the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland, which has had photo identification to vote in elections since 2003.”

In order to vote in the upcoming local elections on the 4th May 2023, anyone wishing to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate must do so by Tuesday 25th April, and this can be done online via the Government’s website. Another option for those without photo ID is to vote by post as no ID is required to vote this way.

Image: SecretLondon123 via Flickr

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