Now strikes threaten elections: Walkouts by passport staff mean thousands could miss out on the chance to vote in local polls
- From May 4, all voters will need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations
- At least 1,000 workers in England, Scotland and Wales to strike in April and May
- Read More: How will the five-week walkout impact your travel plans?
Thouands of voters could miss out on the chance to vote in May’s local elections due to the five-week strike by passport staff, it is feared.
Peers yesterday raised concerns that the walkout, which starts early next month and finishes on May 5, will leave some voters without proof of photo ID.
From May 4, the day when local elections take place in England, all voters will need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations.
The new rules will be extended to General Elections from October.
During a House of Lords debate today, peers raised concerns that some voters may be left with no proof of ID if they send their passport to be renewed but don’t receive it in time for the local elections due to expected delays caused by the strike.
Passport Office workers are to strike for five weeks in an escalation of a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions (File image)
Summer holidays are also at risk from the five-week walkout, which comes just as the busiest period for applications gets under way.
Lib Dem peer Lord Rennard urged the government to extend the accepted forms of ID to non-photo documents such as utility bills, which are accepted by the Post Office for collecting parcels, to ensure voters don’t miss out.
He said: ‘The ten-week current delay in passport applications is frustrating for travellers and the five-week strike will cause further problems for them.
‘It will also reduce the number of people who have one of the specified forms of photo ID to let them vote if they have elections on May 4.’
He said that, although voters can apply to their town hall for a voter ID card, uptake so far has been ‘pathetic’, partly because not all of the electorate is aware of the voting rule change.
Baroness Pinnock added: ‘This delay for passport applications will undoubtedly lead to some people not having the relevant voter ID available to them on the day in order to vote. Another uncertainty is being put in front of voters.’
Tory peer Baroness Berridge said: ‘It’s really important that people can vote and they might not think having sent their passport off that they’re going to need it.’
She called for the Home Office to send alerts via email to new passport applicants that they may need to apply for another form of ID to ensure they can vote in the local elections.
More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working in Passport Offices in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will take part in the action from April 3 to May 5 (File image)
Read More: Get your passport renewed NOW if you want to go abroad this summer
Cross-bench peer Baroness Meacher said there will be a ‘significant number of people’ who ‘do not vote in elections’ if the government sticks to the new requirement.
But Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth dismissed the concerns.
He said 20 other forms of photo ID, including a driving licence, would be accepted. Photo ID that is no longer valid will also be accepted if the picture still has ‘a good enough likeness’.
However, because passports are renewed every ten years, concerns were raised that the photo on an old passport would no longer have a likeness for many voters, leading to them being turned away at polling stations.
Lord Murray of Blidworth said that around 85 per cent of the eligible voting population has either a valid or expired passport.
He added: ‘This strike action should not have any impact on people being able to vote in May.’
It is understood that around 55 per cent of examiners, who check and process applications for the Passport Office, are members of the PSC union, which has called the walkout.
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