The right to vote is one of the most precious held by any citizen of a free country and a clear way of telling free and open societies from dictatorships is whether we can get rid of those who govern us.

Everyone must be able to access the right to vote in elections that citizens are free to contest and vote in. That’s why any attempts to restrict those precious rights should be rigorously challenged.

The government’s legislation to introduce identification poses a threat to that right. Whilst everyone who was eligible to vote still is, theoretically, those who do not have either a drivers licence or a passport will need to take steps to ensure they can still avail themselves of that right before the elections this May.

It is estimated that as many as 3.4 million people will not possess the necessary Identification already, and those excluded are more likely to be poorer or from Black and ethnic minority communities. It is not lost on campaigners that those most likely not to have these forms of ID are amongst those groups that have tended not to vote Conservative in the past.

These proposals appear to be a solution in search of a problem to solve. Voting is already safe and secure in Britain, with only 4 convictions for voter fraud from 2010 to 2018, and only 6 allegations out of 32 million votes at the last General Election in 2019. These changes will waste millions at every election, with an anticipated cost to the public purse of around £40 million over the next decade, equivalent to the average salaries of over 1,000 nurses. In practical terms widespread voter personification would be very quickly detected and would be highly unlikely to occur successfully in the sort of numbers needed to influence an election result. Indeed, there have not been any examples of widespread voter personification that the government have been able to point to.

However, the rules that exist mean that we will all need photo ID to vote for the time being, and with local elections just a few months away I am keen to ensure that everyone is aware and has taken steps to ensure they can vote.The Labour Party and many other campaign groups are doing what they can to publicise the changes and to help people obtain the ID required, or to sign up for a postal vote. Labour-run Chesterfield Council is also trying to make sure everyone is aware.The forms of ID that will be accepted at polling stations are: Passport – UK Driving licence – Blue Badge – Older Person’s Bus Pass – Disabled Person’s Bus Pass – Oyster 60+ Card – Freedom Pass – Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card) – Biometric immigration document – Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card) – National identity card issued by an EEA state.

If a voter does not own any of the above, they can apply for a postal vote or a new FREE Voter authorisation certificate.Voters can download a form to apply for a postal vote at:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote or you can contact my office on 01246 386 and I will send one out to you.Or voters can download a voter authority certificate https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-voter-authority-certificate-by-post-if-youre-living-in-the-uk

and take it in with passport-style photos to the Town Hall.

No-one should be excluded from voting, so I am urging everyone to consider whether they have the necessary ID and if not, to apply for a FREE postal vote or FREE voter authority certificate immediately.

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