Accusations of discrimination over voter ID pilot scheme

NKDC offices EMN-190402-142820001
NKDC offices EMN-190402-142820001

North Kesteven District Council’s Leader has accused an opposition member of discriminating against men and the elderly following a series of questions on a new Voter ID pilot.

Lincolnshire Independent Councillor Marianne Overton said she had received a “number of questions from residents” regarding the scheme being trialled this year.

The new scheme would require those wishing to vote to present proof of identity during the General Election, in a bid to safeguard against electoral fraud.

She asked what impact the changes would have on disabled people and women – asking if it was true that a disproportionate number of those groups may be “without bills in their name”, and noting that older people were “less likely to have a photo driving licence”.

She also asked when the final list of valid identification would be released, how the scheme’s success would be measured and whether the election would be re-run if it was not successful.

In response, Conservative Councillor Richard Wright said the authority had “public sector responsibilities” to have due regard to “fostering good relations.”

He told councillors an equality impact assessment had considered the potential effects on people.

He added that though a final list was still to be confirmed, it was expected to include around 25 valid forms of ID, including blue badge photo card parking permits and concessionary travel passes.

“It is in nobody’s interest to disenfranchise any voter and the decision to use the mixed ID model which is anticipated to include around 25 types of ID available is to offer voters the widest range of identification documents and maximise inclusivity,” he said.

He later added: “I would also say that questions one and two I find particularly discriminatory in the fact that we only ask about women and men are not referred to whatsoever.

“I would just like to say on the evidence described [in question three] I hope a lot of people would agree with me that is again quite a discriminatory question to assume that older people may not drive.”

In response Mrs Overton denied the suggestion adding: “When you’re looking at the whole population you have to ensure that all parts of the community are considered.”

She called on Coun Wright to withdraw his statement, however, he refused.

Coun Wright also told councillors a full evaluation of the scheme would take place following May’s vote, but that the election would not be “re-run due to any perceived consequence of the council’s involvement in the scheme.”