Bouncers could be deployed to 'hotspot' polling stations in Newcastle over voter ID concerns

The 2023 vote will be the first time that voters in England will have to show an approved form of photo identification to be able to cast their ballot. Credit: PA

Bouncers could be placed in 'hotspot' polling stations in Newcastle during the local elections amid concern about arguments regarding new voter ID laws.

The 2023 vote will be the first time that voters in England will have to show an approved form of photo identification to be able to cast their ballot.

City councillors were told that the local authority is considering sending security staff to - paid for through Government funding - to deal with any potential issues arising from the new rules in potentially high-risk locations.

There is concern that many people will not be aware of the new rules and that making the necessary checks will add more pressure to the work of officials at polling stations.

Under the new laws, voters will be turned away they fail to bring a valid ID with them or if it is deemed to be not a good likeness or a forgery.

Lindsay Tomlinson, Newcastle City Council's electoral services manager, said: "I expect there to be some difficult questions for our staff to have to deal with. We had a meeting today and we are going to pull together a list of where those hotspots might be and how we can support staff."

She added that polling station staff were being given additional in-depth training this year specifically about issues around the new rules.

Ms Tomlinson said the number of 'hotspot' locations would be decided based on local authority and police expertise around anti-social behaviour and historic incidents at polling stations.

Approximately 3,900 Newcastle voters in 2022 were estimated to not have an appropriate form of ID such as a passport or driving licence. Credit: PA

Estimates from 2022 suggested that around 3,900 voters in Newcastle would not have an acceptable form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence, to present on polling day, though estimates from December suggest the true figure could be twice or three times that amount.

So far, just 131 people in the city have applied for Voter Authority Certificate (VAC), which is a free document being made available to anyone without a valid form of photo ID. Of that number, only 97 have been issued.

The deadline for applications for a VAC is 5pm on Tuesday April 25 for anyone hoping to vote in the local elections on Thursday 4 May.

Ms Tomlinsons said she said she had been encouraged after speaking with voters at the recent Byker by-election about the changes.

She said: "The feedback was that a lot of people were already aware of it, so I was really pleased when I went around those stations. That is a positive, it does seem that the message is getting out there.

"The other message is that a lot of people are considering postal votes and we have made the point that if anyone wants to bypass the voter ID requirements then they can get a postal vote."

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