Saturday 6 January 2018

Britain, the Mother of Democracy, is a country where old men in England stand in danger of losing their right to vote because they are old

Old voters living in England, in Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Swindon should beware, because they will be asked to produce identification when they go to vote in local elections in May this year. Some of them will be asked for photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence, others will just have to show the polling card sent out to their homes.

Bearing in mind that it is already difficult for some old men and women, with mobilty problems and lack of public transport, to get to polling stations when there is a either a local or general election, the pilot studies which will take place in those areas, are likely to mark even greater discrimination against them.

A Labour Party analysis of the test areas has shown that at least 10,000 people aged 65 or over, and possibly many more, in the five towns are unlikely to have approved photo ID because old people are less likely to have a passport or driving licence. Data from the 2011 Census shows that while 83% of adults overall have a passport, this falls to 70% of the over-65s and 46% for those aged 85 and over. For driving licences, the National Travel Survey shows that while 73% of those aged 17-plus hold one, this falls to 62% for those 70 or older.

Naturally, the Government wants to allay fears and Chris Skidmore, the 'Minister for the Constitution', said the Government was working closely with the pilot local authorities and others to ensure eligible voters were not stopped, and that there were 'contingency plans' in place in each area. He said: “Safeguarding our democracy so that every voter’s identity is protected and electoral fraud is eliminated is a key part of ensuring we can have confidence in our democracy, protecting some of the most vulnerable whose identity could be at risk of being stolen.”

So old voter can rest easy with their votes. Or can they ?

Caroline Abrahams, the Charity Director at 'Age UK,' said : “Whilst electoral fraud is an issue that must be combatted, there is a risk that the introduction of voter ID cards will have a disproportionate impact on older voters. We know that older people often face barriers when they are asked to prove their identity. They may not have a utility bill, particularly if they live in a care home or a relative looks after their bills, and are much less likely to have standard types of ID such as passports and driving licences. Older people are also likely to face other hurdles, including barriers to accessing transport and limited mobility, which can make getting to a polling station much harder. It’s important that any scheme put in place to address electoral fraud does not inadvertently disenfranchise certain groups, including older people.”

Cat Smith, the 'Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement', said the trial would “present a major challenge for many older people. Polling stations are already inaccessible, particularly for those who are not independently mobile and individuals living in residential care. With a significant proportion of older people not carrying personal ID, this additional requirement presents yet another barrier to democratic engagement. With less than six months to go until the local elections, the Cabinet Office needs to set out clear guidelines on how those without photo ID will be able to vote as soon as Parliament returns so that no older voter is disenfranchised.”

Old voters can rest assured that the Government will only decide on its plans for voter ID after analysing the trials and nothing has been decided yet. It has an entirely open mind, despite the fact that old men and women voters in Northern Ireland have had to show ID since 1985.

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