Councillors fear photo ID demand will deter young and old from voting in West Lothian

You will need photo ID to prove your identity and qualify to vote in the coming General Election
You will need photo ID to prove your identity and qualify to vote in the coming General Election -Credit:Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Councillors fear a demand for photo ID to vote could disenfranchise people as changes are introduced during the upcoming General Election.

The information voters need cannot fit on the traditional polling cards, so those registered to vote will receive letters in A4 size envelopes with instructions on voting, West Lothian Council's executive heard this week.

Councillors backed a Labour motion to create an extra polling station in the growing East Calder area- using the primary school alongside the Dave King Partnership building.

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A report to the council’s Executive said: “The poll card will be required to contain information on the Voter ID requirement, including listing the acceptable forms of ID, and on how to get a Voter Authority Certificate.

“It requires a wholesale redesign of the poll card, which will now have to be a A4 enveloped letter as the information required to be on the poll card will no longer fit on an A5 card.

"The change from the poll card format with which voters have been familiar is another change voters will need to be made aware of.”

Basic photo ID will have to be produced by voters at polling stations before they are allowed to cast their vote.

Qualifying ID in Scotland includes a passport, driving licence, a Blue Badge, Scottish National Entitlement travel card or a biometric immigration document. There are a variety of others which will be detailed on the council website.

Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan said she had representation from constituents who were concerned that Whitburn bowling club would no longer be available as a polling station and also concerns from those in Blackburn which would see the school used, forcing it to close for the poll.

An approved motion from the Labour leader detailed the retention of polling stations at Whitburn bowling club and the creation of a new polling station at the Blackburn Partnership.

The motion also agreed to move the polling place to Our Lady’s RC Primary School on a temporary basis until the Fauldhouse Community Centre is available again. The polling place at Fauldhouse Training Centre will be retained.

The motion also laid out the retention of polling stations at St John the Baptist Church Hall in Broxburn.

Councillor Sally Pattle thanked officers for the work they had already done and said: “There are huge changes coming and I am really concerned that people are going to find themselves being disenfranchised because they are not aware of the rule changes so I really appreciate all the work that is being done to raise awareness and I hope that as elected members we can also help to raise awareness.”

“I find it astonishing that the current UK government is perfectly happy that two per cent of people are going to be disenfranchised, that they think that’s acceptable. I think zero percent should be the target.”

A national publicity campaign will start next month to highlight the changes and the types of ID which will be suitable.

In her report to the Executive, Caroline Burton from the chief executive’s office detailed the work she and her team have undertaken, and the difficulties councils are facing with demands to trim costs of delivering elections.

Mrs Burton said: “Returning officers across Scotland are concerned that the demographics who already face more barriers to taking part in democracy are less likely to have an acceptable form of ID and so face a greater risk of being disenfranchised. Estimates from the UK Government are that around two per cent of the electorate will not have a form of ID that can be used to vote, Electoral Commission research put this at four per cent. “

The changes will slow down the voting process because polling station staff will have to check ID and there is also a concern that it will be harder to recruit people to staff polling stations. Anecdotally the perception of moving from a facilitator to a gatekeeper has discouraged people from taking part.

The changes to postal voting also imposes time limits and registration qualifications for voting.

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