Age-friendly Communities helping to ensure every vote counts under new ID rules
New rules for taking part in elections in England mean voters must show identification when they go to their polling station for local elections in May.
This is how Age-friendly Communities are raising awareness and helping ensure older residents can have their say at the ballot box.
On May 4, voters will go to the polls in almost 250 council regions across England in the biggest of the four yearly election cycles to choose around 8,000 councillors.
Under new voting rules, residents hoping to cast their vote will need to show photo ID at polling stations.
Valid photo ID includes a UK or Northern Ireland photocard driving licence, a UK passport, a PASS card, a Blue Badge, an older person’s bus pass, a Disabled person’s bus pass or an Oyster 60+ card. The rules also apply for proxy voters voting in person on someone else’s behalf.
Concerns have been raised that these new rules could lead to voters not being able to cast their vote come election day with one in four voters still unaware with just over a month until the country goes to the polls according to one recent survey.
As the authority responsible for overseeing elections, both local and national, local authorities have an important role in ensuring that all local residents are aware of the changes and avoid the risk of losing their right to vote at this year’s elections and in the future.
Some older people are more likely to experience barriers in preparing for this change. Older people are less likely to hold some of the accepted forms of photo ID, including passports and driving licenses, with residents 85 and above less likely to hold photo ID that was recognisable (91%) compared to younger age groups such as 18-29-years-old (99%).
And due to factors such as digital exclusion, with more than three million people aged 55 and over who have never used the internet, older people may need additional support to understand which existing forms of ID will be accepted.
Age-friendly Communities are places committed to being great places to age. Across the nation, these communities are playing an important role in supporting voters to ensure they have appropriate photo ID.
The Age-friendly approach, as developed by the World Health Organisation, encourages places to ensure older people’s participation in all aspects of social and civic life, as well as championing effective communication and information.
At a recent meeting of the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities, we heard the ways in which people were finding ways to raise awareness of the Voter ID changes:
- Distributing and socialising the range of printable and online resources that have been made available by the Electoral Commission – and tailoring messaging for local older residents.
- Equipping people to talk about changes at local in-person events such as Age-friendly Roadshows.
- Coordinating responses through influential Age-friendly Steering Groups which bring together councillors, community groups, older people and council officers.
- Working with Democratic Services to understand local data, and potential areas for greater outreach work. Then informing local councillors so they can support local constituents about changes.
- Posting letters out to residents on Voter ID and its implications, so people have a hard copy resource.
Find out more about what the changes mean for local places on the Local Government Association’s webpage.