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Electoral system not ready for voter ID: electoral administrators

Election officers have warned the Government that the planned timetable to introduce voter identification cannot be met.

Voters are due under the Elections Act 2022 to have to produce approved photo identification at polling stations from May 2023 for all elections and referendums in England, and police and crime commissioner elections in Wales

But the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) has warned in a letter to Secretary of State for Levelling Up Greg Clark that the implementation timetable needs urgent review as key policy details are still to be confirmed, and secondary legislation has not been published.

The AEA said returning officers were still waiting for confirmation about which forms of photo ID documents will be accepted and about how voter cards - intended for those with no photographic ID - will be provided.

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Peter Stanyon, AEA chief executive, said: “Voter ID needs to work from the moment it launches. If it doesn’t, we risk electors being deprived of their right to vote.”

Mr Stanyon said the May 2023 timetable was “too ambitious”, and implementation timelines “were optimistic at best, undeliverable at worst”.

He said the Government had under estimated the complexity of introducing Voter ID and moving back the start date was “the only prudent option.”

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said when the Bill was passed: “The UK Government still needs to set out much of the detail, the specifics of which will be central to workability. Implementation of the changes introduced by the Bill will need to be carefully planned and managed, so it is important that the necessary supporting legislation is in place with sufficient time to deliver the system-wide change required.”

Then minister for equalities and levelling up communities Kemi Badenoch said at the time that Government research showed 98% of electors already have an accepted form of identification, and those that did not could apply for a free voter card from their council.

Voter ID is intended to deter fraud by personation at polling stations, although opposition parties have said this is a minimal problem.

Mark Smulian

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