A big change is coming to how we vote in elections in London and across England
MPs and peers have waved through big changes to our elections that will force all UK voters to show ID when they vote in general elections – plus all local elections in England. It means that next week’s London elections will be the last – potentially ever – where voters do not have to bring photo ID in order to vote. The ID requirement will also affect mayoral elections, despite around two million people lacking photo identification in Britain.
The changes under the Elections Bill will also give ministers new powers over the independent elections watchdog, which critics say will leave it open to undue influence and undermine free and fair elections in the UK. Labor London Assembly Member Leonie Cooper branded it a “very sad moment”, adding that voting “should be facilitated, not restricted.” Lib Dem AM Hina Bokhari said “democracy is under threat.” The move came on the same night (April 27) that parliamentarians passed the policing and crime bill which will criminalize ‘noisy’ protests.
Kyle Taylor, a spokesperson for the Democracy Defense Coalition, said it was a “travesty” that the Elections Bill will become law. “This follows a sequence of actions from an actively anti-democratic government who have, in the last week, banned ‘noisy’ protest, made plans to strip people of citizenship without notice and are now undermining the integrity of elections themselves,” he said .
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(Image: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire)
Naomi Smith, CEO of better democracy campaign group Best for Britain, said the Prime Minister had succeeded in a “power grab”. She said: “There is now an urgent need to remove this government and undo the damage they have wrought on our institutions and public trust in politics. Opposition parties must work together to make this a reality.”
But Conservative AM Andrew Boff defended the plans, telling MyLondon : “It is common practice in countries that value the integrity of the democratic process, like Norway, Holland and Finland, to require a proof of ID before casting your vote. If you love the right to vote then surely you should support measures which ensure that that right is not corrupted.”
And a Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson told MyLondon: “We completely disagree with these claims about the Elections Bill – our reforms will not affect their operational independence. The Pickles review on electoral fraud was clear that reforms were needed to improve accountability.” The 2016 Pickles review into electoral fraud followed the electoral law-breaking in Tower Hamlets in 2014.
The types of ID that will be accepted
A United Kingdom, EEA or Commonwealth passport or driving licence
A biometric immigration document
A holographic PASS card (e.g. CitizenCard)
To MoD ID card
A concessionary travel pass – eg an Oyster 60+ card or Freedom Pass, but NOT National Rail cards
A badge for sick or disabled people as described in legislation
A ‘free’ ID document which you must apply for through your local council
An EEA national identity card
On Wednesday (April 27) Essex resident Neil Coughlan – a pensioner and Labor supporter who lacks photo ID – had his Supreme Court case thrown out after trying to oppose the policy through the courts. Ministers believe it is “entirely appropriate” for the government to provide guidance on electoral priorities to the Electoral Commission and insist it won’t affect how the watchdog investigates individual cases – such as when the Prime Minister is being investigated over allegations of party donor scandals .
As London mayor in 2014, Boris Johnson wrote: “If I am ever asked, on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong…then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it.”
Londoners will no longer be able to pick a second choice when they vote for the Mayor of London in the next elections in 2024 under the new law. The current arrangement lets voters pick a second preference, which is used if their first choice candidate doesn’t have majority support, and means mayors tend to need more than 50 per cent of the vote to win. The Labor Party, Greens and Lib Dems say the move to a first-past-the-post system would let a mayor win on a fraction of the vote – closing the gap between Sadiq Khan and a Tory opponent.
Labor benefits from the current “supplementary vote” system as large numbers of Greens and Lib Dems put Mr Khan as their backup choice. Nearly 200,000 second preference votes went to Mr Khan last May, compared to just 6,000 for Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously been accused of rigging the voting system to help his own party win the mayoralty.
Josiah joined MyLondon as the outlet’s first City Hall Editor in October 2021, reporting on the Mayor, the London Assembly, the Met police, Transport for London, and wider London politics.
He moved to South London from Brussels in 2015, working in communications for the Electoral Reform Society, and covering Westminster politics as a freelance journalist. Originally from Cornwall, he is now also a proud Londoner. Josiah has appeared on BBC Radio 4, Times Radio, LBC and other outlets to discuss current affairs and general political chaos.
If you have an untold story – whether it’s a housing nightmare, an unfair decision or a local scandal, get in touch at [email protected] or contact Josiah on Twitter.
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