The Mid Devon Lib Dems have raised alarm that new voter ID requirements are already disenfranchising voters who would otherwise have voted on May 4th.
During extensive door-to-door campaigning over recent weeks the Lib Dems have been told by voters that the new photo ID policy will stop people who normally vote from voting.
Lapford's Lib Dem campaigner Steve Keable, reports:
"My experience has been with older voters who will be denied their right to vote. Many agricultural workers also have paper driving licences as they have never moved house, they don't have a passport, and they did not register for a voter authority certificate."
The free voter authority certificates issued by local councils have had appallingly low take-up with a tiny fraction of those expected to need one actually applying in time. Whilst no public data has yet been released on the reason why the take up has been so low, early feedback from doorstep canvassing suggests the requirement for a passport-style photo may be acting as an obstacle for those without access to expensive modern smart phones.
Upper Culm's campaigner Simon Clist adds:
"Those on lower incomes or who do not use the latest modern technology are struggling to apply for voter ID. This is a really serious problem that is excluding parts of our community that already feel like they are being left behind and forgotten.
"Some voters are aware they will need to take ID with them to vote, but did not realise that because they are under 60 years old the photo identification they use for bus and train travel will not be accepted.
"I have experienced other folk finding that they don't have an accepted form of voter ID because they have never needed one before. I am persuading them to still turn up to vote in person, and ensure they enter the polling station so the fact they were denied their vote is accurately recorded."
Based on our canvassing, the Mid Devon Lib Dems have encountered more people in one street who are being denied their legal right to vote than have been prosecuted for voter impersonation in recent elections.
These new voter ID rules are designed to prevent people from voting. It is clear voter suppression, designed to affect those from our younger and already less represented communities. This must be the intent because what other reason can there be for allowing travel identification cards for people aged 60+, but not the exact same cards for those aged under 60?
Voter impersonation is not a significant issue in our very secure voting system. For some people May 4th will be the first election they have not voted in during their entire adult lives.
It is important that voters enter the polling station to have their denial recorded. Many polling stations will have greeters outside who will remind people of the new voter ID requirements, but if someone is turned away at that point it may not be recorded.
As local elections typically have a much lower voter turnout than general elections there is a serious risk that the true number of voters disenfranchised by this policy will simply be dismissed as low voter turnout.