Agenda item

Elections Act including Voter Identity


Christie Tims, Assistant Director of Operations, Regulation & Enforcement and Deputy Returning Officer delivered a presentation further to the recent briefing note delivered to members on the changes to the Elections Act including Voter Identity.  She said that information and updated guidance was being received daily from the Government Change team, the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Electoral Commission and processes were being written and updated on a regular basis.  Ms Tims explained that there were a number of actions within the Elections Act to be undertaken in the next 18 months but the most immediate activity concerns the District and Parish Election on 4 May 2023 which required all voters to show photo ID at polling stations before a ballot paper can be issued and to extend election accessibility to support voters with a disability in the polling stations. The acceptable forms of ID were discussed and if the voter does not have a photo ID that looks like them, they could apply for a free voter identification document from the government portal which went live on Monday 16 January.  She confirmed that postal vote handling was not included in this phase and had been delayed after the May elections, until August 2023.  She said even a proxy voter must provide a photo ID of themselves even though they were voting for another. 


The process of getting the voter identification document from the government portal was explained and it was noted it did need to include an up to date photograph as well as a NI number.  Ms Tims explained that if residents did not have a NI number and/or photograph, they could come into the council office and the customer services team would be able to assist with the process and take a suitable photograph on their service I-pads.  It was clarified that all applications had to be made by 25 April 2023 as this would allow for the government office to post it on in time for the election day.  Specimens were illustrated and the presentation would be forwarded on to all with the deadline dates and links within for information purposes.


Ms Tims said the national campaign had begun with television adverts and so had our local awareness campaign from today.  She said there were scheduled posts to be delivered on social media/through newsletters and posters and all the poll cards would be marked very clearly with the need for photo ID when attending to vote. 

Concerns were made about getting the message out to older people and those who did not have computers and Ms Tims appealed for any ideas to increase the publicity.  An idea of a tag on the bin had already been received which would be explored and members were asked to assist in any way at all.  The local communications plan was in compliment with the national campaign and would be ongoing now until late April.  It was confirmed that all Elections staff would be fully trained to observe the documents and do the appropriate checks on polling day with additional Polling Supervisors being put in place to support anyone wanting to vote.  Ms Tims, the Governance team and Elections Manager had attended training to date and would be attending more in February as updates were received.  It was noted that it was a requirement of the act to also record how many voters are turned away on the polling day. 


It was agreed that it was paramount that everyone who wants to vote has an opportunity to do so.  Members said it was good to see the disabled support and suggested contact be made to voluntary groups and organisations so that no one would be disadvantaged in any way.  Ms Tims advised that some mobiles would have to be used but these had been reviewed over the past few years to ensure they are at a minimum.  She said we would be engaging with groups so they can be accommodated and listening to the experience of presiding officers and members said they would also be able to offer support if alternative venues were sought in key locations across the district.


Members asked the following questions and made the following observations:-


·       How many voter ID applications had been received to date?

The Deputy Returning Officer advised that the Voter ID applications were steadily coming in as the national campaign had only just begun – 3 or 4 a day at the moment being received on the portal.  Testing in other areas had illustrated that the expectation was likely to be 2-3% of the electorate.  LDC’s current electorate being 81,000.

·       How has £20k been calculated to cover the burden of the extra duties and is it felt to be enough?

The Deputy Returning Officer confirmed that this had been done on a national calculation but advised that we do have the opportunity each April to make further requests for any additional costs incurred.  As we do not have a separate elections team it would mean we will need to ask for additional short-term resources to cover the governance team and customer services and to help run the elections so it is felt we do have a strong business case for this.

·       If this new system leads to a fall in numbers voting, what figure would worry officers if this council had not reached it?

The Deputy Returning Officer could not comment as this would be a matter for the Electoral Commission.

·       Will there be a mechanism at polling stations to record how many voters get turned away?

The Deputy Returning Officer advised that this is a requirement of the Act and the full details were not yet known but the training for this aspect would be in February and those attending will need to train when recruiting to presiding officer posts and poll clerks who will need to help with this.  It was envisaged  additional support from polling station supervisors would be required.   Ms Tims said it was known that this will be subject to a review at the end of the process as there were some staged reviews to see how the system of Voter ID had impacted at these local elections so lessons can be learnt.

·       It is known there is a national shortage of accessible mobiles, can we pre-order now?

The Deputy Returning Officer confirmed that over the last number of years a review of mobiles had been done and checks were being done in line with the project plan about the accessible mobiles now.  She confirmed the venues would be risk-assessed and consultation with presiding officers and supervisors will take place as they have the local knowledge of the areas within which they have worked before.

·       Is there an officer to signpost residents to who may have difficulty with the Voter ID process?

All the Customer Services team can assist residents in-house or on the telephone.

·       Are there enough resources to accommodate this challenge?  Is team flexible and multi-functional? To ensure delivery, governance team must get what they want as election must not fail and no one to lose their right to vote in May.

The Deputy Returning Officer said a lot of planning and cross-working on previous bi-elections had been done by the governance team and with additional temporary resources it was achievable. 

·       We must connect with everyone wanting to vote, can we liaise with Nursing Homes and Care Homes/Mosques/worship groups in addition to the usual communications plan? The geography for people in rural areas also needs to be given attention.



·       Have the additional materials in poll stations been ordered if residents need to remove facial coverings?

The Deputy Returning Officer said, yes, the preparatory orders had been done and will be delivered in time. She confirmed there had been some moderation in what is expected as initially we had been told everything must be removed meaning a privacy screen would be required at all stations but this has since changed meaning only the removal of facial coverings is required.  Luckily, a lot of the polling station environments had privacy spaces within them.

·       Have we had any engagement with neighbouring authorities to share good practice?

The Deputy Returning Officer said, yes, all the project team had attended the National Conference when the findings had first been presented and a lot of work done had been done with our neighbours especially in Tamworth and the Electoral manager meets neighbouring authorities regularly to ensure things are being done similarly.

·       Simon Fletcher, as Returning Officer for the district elections was asked directly if he would ensure that resources, finance and staff, would be provided to ensure the voters were not deterred to vote. 

Mr Fletcher assured members that this would be provided.

·       Thanks were given for delivering briefing and presentation in such a short turnaround time and member support was offered to assist.



RESOLVED: That the views of the Committee be noted and a verbal update be given at the next meeting in March.


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