'You will have to pay to vote': ID checks at polling stations an 'attack on democracy', Wakefield Labour says
Government plans to bring in ID checks at polling stations will effectively force people to "pay to vote", Labour councillors have claimed.
The idea was described as an "attack on democracy" at a full council meeting on Wednesday.
But Conservative councillors have defended the plans, first mooted earlier this year, saying it will cut the risk of voter fraud and that similar systems are in place in other developed nations.
Labour says however, that the cost of issuing voter ID will fall on councils, and by extension council taxpayers.
They also suggested that the changes, which are yet to be passed by Parliament, would disproportionately affect the young, the poor and people from ethnic minorities.
Introducing a motion attacking the proposals, Labour Cabinet member Michelle Collins claimed they were a "breathtaking attempt to rig the system against those who have the least".
She said: "This legislation is an attack on democracy.
"It's an attack on the rights on every voter in Wakefield to take part in free, fair elections, unhindered by the state.
"Voter ID is a solution to a problem that does not exist.
"It's not based on reason, data or facts.
"What we do know is the poorest are most likely to be affected.
"Let's be clear - the government aren't offering to pay for voter ID. No, they're saying that local councils should pay for it.
"The government are essentially telling the citizens of Wakefield and beyond they will have to pay to vote."
But the opposition Conservative group accused Labour of being "party political" over the issue and suggested a working group should be allowed to work through the proposals.
Tory councillor Sam Harvey told the meeting: "Trust me, students will have ID to get into nightclubs.
"Times change. Just because something is one way does not mean it must remain that way.
"Other countries - Germany, Spain, France, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, India and Israel - all expect their residents to bring along ID to vote.
"If so many other countries run their elections like that, should we not be considering this?"
Fellow Conservative Gill Cruise added: "When we've got students putting on social media that they've just voted and they're going to now go and vote again, we need to do something about it.
"Voter fraud does go on. It's not about singling people out. It's about stopping them from voting twice and that's it."
But Labour insisted that the plans could result in more than two million people being unable to take part in elections and branded the Conservatives' position "nonsensical".
Lib Dem councillor Tom Gordon was also critical of the government's plans, saying, "This is nothing more than a brazen attempt to gerrymander the electorate.
"This isn't a single attack on democracy. It's one of many.
He added: "I hope Labour doesn't oppose this just because they think they might suffer at the ballot box."
A voter ID pilot scheme run by Bromley Council in London during the 2018 local elections saw 569 people attend a polling station without the necessary documentation.
Of those, 415 returned to cast a vote.
Local Democracy Reporting Service