Portsmouth politicians could fight against 'discriminatory' new voter ID rules

THE city council could challenge the government’s plans to make voter ID mandatory, with its leader branding it a ‘deliberate attempt’ to stop people from voting.

Sunday, 13th February 2022, 8:48 am

During a meeting on Tuesday Portsmouth councillors are set to debate the controversial elections bill, which would require photographic ID when voting in all general elections, local council elections and the police and crime commissioner elections.

Portsmouth City Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, will be bringing the issue forward at the meeting and asking his peers to agree to write to communities secretary Michael Gove and Portsmouth’s MP about their concerns.

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Ahead of the meeting Cllr Vernon-Jackson told The News: ‘There’s very little evidence of electoral fraud at polling stations.

‘We have to balance what the problem is with what the suggested solution is but in this case the solution is worse than the problem.

‘Not everybody has a passport or driving licence and it tends to be the poorest in our society who don’t because they can’t afford to go abroad or drive.

‘It looks like this is a deliberate attempt by the Conservative government to prevent people who are unlikely to vote for them from voting.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 291121-15)

‘It should be about everyone being involved in the decision-making process and having a voice.’

It is thought 3.5 million people in the UK do not currently have any form of photographic ID and the changes would cost the taxpayer £180m.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, of the Labour party, agreed with Cllr Vernon-Jackson.

‘Voting is safe and secure in Britain, yet Tory plans to introduce voter ID are discriminatory,’ he said.

‘They risk denying millions of people their democratic right to vote including the elderly, low income and Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters.

‘With this elections bill, the Conservatives are reversing decades of democratic progress and urgently need to rethink their pointless policy.

‘That’s why in parliament I’m supporting amendments which would remove voter ID provisions by the government and will continue to campaign against laws which are a backward step for Britain.’

However, as part of the bill it is proposed free ID would be provided if applied for.

Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt, who represents Portsmouth North, added: ‘I have already had considerable correspondence and discussions with the cabinet office about this bill, in particular about ensuring it does not deter people being able to vote. For those without existing ID, ID would be provided.

‘Voter fraud is not widespread, but it does happen, and we have had cases where it had been pretty industrial. I do support new initiatives to make it easier and more secure for disabled people to vote- for example for those who are visually impaired.’

It comes after Gosport was one area of the country included in voter ID trials in 2018.

During the trial 116 people were sent away, and of those 72 fetched their ID and returned to cast a vote.

The remaining 44 did not return to the polling station and were unable to vote.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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