Voter ID pilots in Lancaster and Morecambe would ‘undermine democracy’ say Labour, but Tory group criticises decision

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Lancaster City Council has voted not to take part in any voter ID pilots as it would “undermine democracy”.

Councillors debated a motion proposed by Labour Coun Jack O’Dwyer-Henry, to not participate in any Voter ID pilots for any elections in the district.

Lancaster City Coun Jack O'Dwyer-Henry

Lancaster City Coun Jack O'Dwyer-Henry

Voter ID pilots, which ran in 10 local authorities in the May 2019 elections, required voters to present personal identification before casting their ballot.

Lancaster City Council’s Conservative group criticised the decision not to participate.

At a full council meeting on September 25, Bare Ward Conservative Coun Stephie Barber had put forward a change to the motion asking for Lancaster City Council to be a trialist.

She said: “We have had some very high-level public cases over recent years including in Peterborough, London and Birmingham over voter ID fraud.

Stephie Barber Lancaster City Council Tory leader

Stephie Barber Lancaster City Council Tory leader

“Over the May local elections, it was alleged that in Plymouth 2,000 students were put on the electoral register without their knowledge.

“Nearer home we had a local case that was investigated by police involving our previous Labour Westminster Candidate. I believe some councillors who signed her nomination form are probably still in this Chamber.

“In the last General Election in 2017 there were also concerns expressed in Westminster about 1,300 postal votes in this council area not being verified.”

Coun Barber’s reference to a local case investigated by police referred to Labour’s former candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale Vikki Singleton.

But no further action was taken by police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

The motion was supported by a majority of councillors.

Coun O’Dwyer-Henry’s motion stated:

“This Council notes that:

· Of the 44.6 million votes cast in UK elections in 2017, there was just one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud.

· After the May 2018 Voter ID pilots, the Electoral Reform Society concluded that the introduction of Voter ID is “a sledge hammer to crack a nut”.

· In 2018, Electoral Commission research found that about 7.5 per cent of the electorate do not have access to any form of photo ID.

· That young people, older people, people with disabilities, trans people, BAME communities and the homeless would especially be negatively impacted by a requirement to produce photo ID to cast a vote.

· Over 1,100 people have been denied a vote in local government elections due to the 2018 and 2019 Voter ID pilots.

“This Council believes that introducing mandatory Voter ID would undermine our democracy.

“Therefore, this Council resolves to not participate in any Voter ID pilots for any elections in our District.

“And this Council further resolves to instruct the Chief Executive to write to the Cabinet Office to express this Council’s opposition to the introduction of mandatory Voter ID in any UK elections.”