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Supreme Court to issue ruling next week on lawfulness of voter ID pilot schemes

The Supreme Court will next week (27 April) issue its ruling on whether the voter identification ("ID") pilot schemes that were implemented in the May 2019 local government elections were lawful.

The case of R (on the application of Coughlan) (Appellant) v Minister for the Cabinet Office (Respondent) – UKSC 2020/0129 related to orders made by the Minister for the Cabinet Office under section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 to allow for voter ID pilot schemes in areas where local authorities had chosen to take part.

Neil Coughlan, a former member of Braintree District Council, challenged these orders by way of judicial review.

His claim was dismissed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal. He subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking a declaration that the orders were unlawful for being ultra vires section 10 of the 2000 Act.

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Ahead of the Supreme Court hearing Mr Coughlan’s lawyers, Leigh Day, said he would argue:

  • The right to vote in local government elections was a constitutional right and the Court of Appeal was wrong not to rule that it could only be restricted by clear words in a statute. There were no crystal clear words in Section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 which indicated that government ministers could give local government officials the power to turn away voters if they do not have ID.
  • Section 10 of the 2000 Act did not permit pilot schemes requiring voters to produce ID before they could be allowed to vote.
  • The pilot schemes requiring voter ID were not in line with the purpose of the 2000 Act to encourage voting and make it easier.

A panel comprising Lord Reed, Lord Sales, Lord Hamblen, Lord Stephens and Dame Siobhan Keegan LCJ (NI) heard the case on 15 February 2022.

LGBT Foundation, Stonewall, Operation Black Vote, the Runnymede Trust and Voice4Change England intervened.

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