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Turnout low for new UK voter ID ahead of May polls, digital ID off the list

Turnout low for new UK voter ID ahead of May polls, digital ID off the list
 

Only one percent of people without valid photo ID documents have registered for a new government-led scheme for voter ID, reports the BBC, ahead of photo ID becoming mandatory for local elections on 4 May and for any general elections from October. Digital ID from the likes of the Post Office and Yoti are not accepted.

The Voter Authority Certificate is a free document, issued by a voter’s local council, aimed at enabling the estimated two million people without valid ID a way to vote. Fewer than 25,000 people have applied so far.

Since the news of low take-up broke, the online application rate has almost doubled, as can be seen on the live Performance Dashboard. Even so, it would take more than eight years to issue the certificates at the new rate.

There have been calls to delay the rollout of the photo ID requirement, which has been criticized for being rushed with councils unclear as to how to prepare to issue the certificates. The government has rejected the calls.

Local government minister Lee Rowley told MPs that around 98 percent of the electorate already have one of the 22 forms of ID, reports the BBC, and that a “large number” of the estimated 2 million who need voter ID “will not have elections in their area this year.”

Most people would only have access to around three of the types of ID accepted: passport, driving license and the PASS card (generally acquired by young people to prove they are over 18).

He went on: “Of that group a number will choose not to vote – much as we would like them to do so – and will have chosen never to have voted, and we would encourage them to do so.”

The ID credentials typically held by young people are not on the list, such as student ID and young person’s travel and railcards. The equivalent cards for the over-60s are.

For readers less familiar with the UK, the ruling Conservative Party which has brought in the photo ID requirement generally enjoys an older, whiter, wealthier electorate. These demographics are more likely to hold valid ID.

An amendment that would have increased the number of IDs accepted was removed from the Elections Act last year, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

Digital ID not on the list, but digital verification might be

The UK is progressing a trust framework for digital ID for the private sector to operate certified schemes. Digital IDs already available are not accepted although they are accepted in more use cases.

However, the government is investigating digital services for identity verification for voting. Contracts for technology for verification and voter card issuance worth £3.75 million (US$5.2 million) were made available in late 2021. The devices are expected to be ready for the May elections.

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