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HBC graphic on the voter ID requirement.

Planning to vote? Don’t forget the voter ID requirement

If you are planning to vote in this year’s elections, make sure you are prepared for the requirement to show photo identification at the polling station – otherwise you won’t be allowed to vote. Hastings Borough Council have launched an awareness campaign to bring local residents up to speed. Nick Terdre reports.

We are likely to face two sets of elections this year – local elections for one council seat in each of Hastings’ 16 wards, plus the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, and a general election, for which no date has yet been set and which could take place as late as next January.

But in accordance with the Elections Act passed by Parliament in 2022 would-be voters are required to present photographic proof of their identity when presenting themselves at a poll station. This is the first time that the photo ID requirement will be in force in Hastings elections, though it applied in local elections held in much of the country last May.

Various forms of photo identity are accepted, including a passport, a photographic driver’s licence, a national identity card issued by an EEA (European Economic Area) state, a biometric immigration document, and others such as a blue badge, an older person’s bus pass and a PASS card (identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram). A full list can be seen on the HBC website.

Only original documents are acceptable, not scans or photos. But it does not matter if a photo is out of date as long as it is still a good likeness of you.

Voter authority certificate

If you have none of these documents, you can apply for a free voter authority certificate. This can be done online, in person or by post. You will need to supply a recent digital photo of yourself along with your national insurance number or some other means of proving your identity, such as a birth certificate, bank statement or utility bill. You can download an application form here and see precisely what information is needed.

Alternative ways of voting are registering to vote by post and assigning your vote to a proxy. Application can again be made through the council website. Proof of identity again has to be provided. There are new rules for these procedures, HBC says.

Essential to voting, by whatever means, is first of all being registered to vote. You can get yourself of the electoral roll either online or by submitting a paper form.

HBC’s awareness campaign includes brightly coloured graphics to be displayed on buses, at bus stops and on posters around town, as well as on its social media channels and weekly residents’ newsletter.

The new law also includes changes to make polling stations more accessible, and provision for privacy for anyone who needs to remove a head or face covering at a polling station to have their ID checked.

Feedback from 2023 elections

The government justified the need for photo identity to prevent voter fraud, though it failed to establish that this constituted a problem. Following last year’s elections, the Electoral Commission found that at least 0.25% of those who tried to vote, equivalent to some 14,000 people, were unable to do so due to the voter ID requirement. Around 4% of those who did not vote cited the ID requirement as the reason.

On average, a higher proportion of voters was turned away in deprived areas, with disabled people, the unemployed, members of ethnic minorities and younger people more affected. Awareness of the voter authority certificate was also relatively low – only 25,000 were used as voter ID.

The commission made a number of recommendations to the government, including improved access to the voter authority certificate, options for voters lacking any form of accepted ID and increased awareness of the support for disabled voters. The government responded that it had already dealt with the points raised.

Various deadlines come in the second half of April with respect to voting in the 2 May elections:

16 April: deadline for registering to vote
17 April: deadline for registering to vote by post
24 April: deadline for registering to vote by proxy, and for applying for a voter authority certificate.

HBC parties speak

HOT asked all the leaders of all the groups represented on the council if they had a message for voters. Here are the responses from those who replied.

Cllr Andy Patmore, Conservative leader: “I would urge anyone who would like to vote in the next local and national elections to make sure you have the necessary voter ID. Your voice matters, and registering for voter ID is key to unlocking your civic power and making sure you can participate in the democratic process.”

Cllr Lucian Fernando, Reform UK: “I fully support the initiative to require photo ID for voting, as I believe it is an essential measure in safeguarding the integrity of our electoral process. Ensuring that individuals present valid identification helps prevent instances of election fraud and promotes transparency in our democratic system. It’s important for every eligible voter to have confidence that their vote counts and that the electoral process is fair and secure.”

Cllr Tony Collins, Green Party: “Please remember you now need photo ID in order to be able to vote in person in local and national elections. At the last election some folk turned up at their polling station only to be refused entry because they didn’t have the right ID. Driving licence, passport, your bus pass, they are all accepted. There is a full list of acceptable forms of ID on the My Hastings website. If you want to register for a postal vote, however, then photo ID is not required.”

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Posted 17:44 Saturday, Feb 10, 2024 In: Local Government

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