POLICE are preparing for “potential unrest” at polling stations during the upcoming local elections, where voter ID will be required for the first time.
A Leeds Council report suggested there could be disorder at ballot boxes across the city, if voters are turned away for not having valid identification.
This year’s elections, on May 4, will be the first in the UK where voters need to produce photo ID at polling stations, following new government legislation.
Ministers say the rules will minimise the risk of voter fraud and people trying to vote twice. But critics argue the scheme is politically motivated and discriminates against poorer people, who are less likely to have a driving licence or a passport.
A report on the issue going before the Council’s strategy and resources committee next Monday said: “The (Council’s) head of electoral services has been working closely with West Yorkshire Police to ensure adequate police presence and support is in place on polling day.
“This is in preparation to deal with any potential unrest in polling stations, because of electors being turned away if they do not have the correct photographic identification and are refused a ballot paper.”
The Council also said it was putting extra staff on at busy polling stations and at locations where it’s believed voters are “less likely to have an accepted form of ID, or are more likely to require use of the privacy booth”.
The changes don’t apply to postal voters, who make up around 30 per cent of the Leeds electorate.
Voters using polling stations who don’t have a passport, driving licence or other form of accepted ID, need to apply for a voter authority certificate.
This can be requested through the Electoral Commission here https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/voter-id/applying-a-voter-authority-certificate The deadline for those wishing to vote in this year’s local elections, is April 25.
Explaining how the new process will work, the report said: “If the polling station staff are satisfied the ID is acceptable, ballot paper(s) will then be issued in the usual way.
“However, regulations state a presiding officer must refuse a ballot paper if an ID document raises reasonable doubt as to whether the voter is the elector they claim to be, or they reasonably suspect the document to be a forged document.”
The report also highlighted potential issues with the new law for voters who wear face coverings.
It said that the Council was ensuring that there were female staff members on hand at each polling station, for “electors who need to remove a face covering in a private area and would not feel comfortable with a male member of staff carrying out this process”.
A total of 33 City Council seats will be contested in Leeds at this year’s elections.