MP: New rules on voter ID penalise thousands of young Londoners

·3 min read
(Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Wire)
(Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Wire)

New election rules which will require people to show ID to cast a ballot discriminate against thousands of young Londoners and could prevent them from voting, MPs have warned.

The controversial Elections Bill mandates that voters must show photo ID at polling stations during UK general elections or local elections in England.

It states Oyster 60+ cards or Freedom Passes used by the elderly to travel on London transport for free can be used as a form of identification.

But university student cards and 18+ photo Oyster Cards have not been listed as acceptable.

At the last general election people aged 70 and over voted overwhelmingly for the Conservative party, while those in the 18 to 24 age group were least likely support the government, according to a YouGov survey.

Speaking on Monday before a Labour Party Conference fringe event on the Elections Bill shadow minister for young people and democracy Cat Smith said leaving out forms of ID held by younger people was a “shameless attempt to rig democracy in favour of the Conservative Party”.

“The Government is choosing its voters and locking young people out of democracy,” she added.

A Cabinet Office survey found younger people were more likely to hold a form of photo ID than older age groups.

However, almost two million Britons aged 16 to 25 do not own a passport, while just 34.6 percent of 17 to 20 year olds have a driving licence.

An amendment to the bill to allow student cards and 18+ Oysters to be used as ID is being pushed by Labour.

National Union of Students president Larissa Kennedy, said: “The Government’s plans – which include preventing student IDs from being listed as a valid form of voter identification – are a cynical attempt to suppress votes and lock them out of democracy.

“The Government has failed students at every turn and fears justice at the ballot box.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that voter fraud is a widespread issue. Rather than trying to rig democracy in their favour, the Government should focus on actual issues such as building a fully funded, lifelong and truly accessible education system.

“As a democratic organisation we know all too well the importance of removing barriers for student participation in democracy. We’d be very happy to sit down with the Government to help them avoid the disenfranchisement of students and marginalised communities.”

During a 2018 pilot 16 to 25 Railcards were accepted as voter ID in Woking. Electors using them at polling stations accounted for 0.1 per cent voters, compared to 12 per cent who used an older person’s bus pass, the Government said.

A Cabinet Office spokesman added that 60+ Oyster cards were subject to “more rigorous” security checks compared to student IDs and travel passes for younger people.

They said: “All forms of identification included in the Bill need to meet a high standard of security in order to protect our elections against fraud.

“Young people will not be disproportionately affected by these measures. Cabinet Office research found that 99 per cent of those aged 18 to 29 held an accepted form of photographic identification and a free, local Voter Card will be provided to anyone who needs it.”

It follows a row last week over UK mayoral elections being switched to the first past the post voting system, which critics says also favours the Tories.

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