'I half feel like giving up': Peterborough councillor not yet able to vote in May's elections

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Cllr Julie Stevenson says she’s faced delays in getting her voter ID

Despite being an elected councillor, a member of Peterborough City Council (PCC) is not yet able to vote in this year’s local elections.

Cllr Julie Stevenson (Independent, Orton Waterville) says she’s in the process of applying for a government voter authority certificate to use as voter ID, but has faced delays after changing her name.

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Last year, when the requirement to bring photo ID to polling stations was first introduced, Cllr Stevenson says she used an expired passport with her previous name as she hadn’t yet updated the electoral register after getting married.

Cllr Julie StevensonCllr Julie Stevenson
Cllr Julie Stevenson

But now she says she’s been asked for additional proof of identification after supplying her national insurance number before she can be issued a certificate to vote on 2nd May.

“The things they’re asking for, I don’t have,” she said. “It’s amazing how much not driving and not having a passport makes life difficult.”

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Cllr Stevenson says she also doesn’t have a job outside the council – but nor does she collect welfare benefits – and that her household utility bills are sent to her husband, meaning she has very little proof of identification accepted by the government despite having “embraced the whole democratic process” as a sitting councillor.

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“It’s a bit of a palaver when they’ve got my national insurance number and I’m already a councillor,” she said. “My point is that I half feel like giving up.

“I will get it sorted but it’ll be to my further effort.”

The effect of requiring voter ID in elections is being monitored by the Electoral Commission.

It said in a report on last year’s local elections that “some people found it harder than others to show accepted voter ID, including disabled people and the unemployed” and that around three per cent of people who said they didn’t vote listed not having ID as the reason.

Awareness and take-up of the voter authority certificate, which is for people like Cllr Stevenson who don’t have another accepted form of ID, was “low”, it adds, with just under two thirds of people reporting that they were aware of it.

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“Only 25,000 certificates were actually used as a form of ID on polling day,” it said.

In Peterborough, less than half a percent of people who reported to polling stations were turned away because they didn’t have a valid form of ID and didn’t return with one (110 in total). A further 200 were initially turned away but later returned with valid ID.

The government said it introduced the requirement to “strengthen the integrity of the electoral system and ensure that elections remain secure, fair, modern and transparent”.

In a response to the Electoral Commission’s report, it said it will “continue to work with the electoral community, national and local civil society organisations, and the media to raise awareness of the support that is available for disabled voters”.

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“We will also work with them to further develop our voter information resources for disabled voters.”

It also said awareness of the scheme was high, with 92 per cent of people aware of the requirement according to the Electoral Commission’s analysis of polling station data and public opinion research.

The government allocated £4.75m funding to local councils holding elections last year to support communications about voter ID.

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