Why Filton voters could be stopped from having their say at May elections

by BBC LDRS team and Filtonvoice reporters

Voters in Filton will need to show an accepted form of identification at upcoming council elections, as part of new rules. Recent changes to the law mean people unable to show ID at polling stations could be barred from voting and taking part in the next local elections.

Local elections will be held on May 4 next year in many parts of England, and they could mean a change in which political party runs South Gloucestershire Council. But questions were raised about voters without accepted forms of ID, at a full council meeting on December 14.

People who don’t have an accepted form of ID will be able to apply online or by submitting a paper form to their council for a free ID card — although South Gloucestershire Council’s website doesn’t yet appear to have a link to apply for free ID. Applications are expected to open next month.

Councillor Claire Young, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “Does the cabinet member agree that it’s outrageous ageism that travel passes for older people are to be expected as ID but those for young people aren’t? Will he commit to ensuring that free ID is easily available and promoted to anyone who needs it in good time for the local elections?”

Voting rules are changing due to the new Elections Act, which became law in April. This means voters will need ID to vote in local elections and general elections.

According to the Electoral Commission, research shows people less likely to have an accepted form of ID are those over 85, trans people, people with disabilities, and homeless people. But council chiefs said that evidence and a recent pilot of voters needing ID showed that most people have “an acceptable form of voting”.

Conservative Cllr Ben Burton, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: “What’s important to recognise is the availability and the effect of voter ID. The Electoral Commission report and the evaluation of the pilot that took place in 2018 showed that actually the vast majority are able to vote and have an acceptable form of voting.

“The most important thing to ensure is that the democratic process is well run and the people who can vote are able to vote. I have every confidence in the democratic services team, with their experience of elections, to get the message out there in terms of what people can vote with, how they can vote, and to ensure that the electoral process goes smoothly.”

Accepted forms of ID include passports or driving licences issued in the UK; bus passes for older people or disabled people; biometric immigration documents; and national identity documents issued by a country in the European Economic Area. The Electoral Commission is launching an awareness campaign in January about voters needing ID at polling stations.

The deadline to register to vote for the next local elections in South Gloucestershire is April 17. The deadline for applying for a postal vote is April 18, and the deadline for both a proxy vote and for free ID is April 25.