Witham man's voter ID legal challenge rejected

20 March 2019, 12:15 | Updated: 20 March 2019, 12:17

High Court London

A man from Witham's legal challenge over voter ID trials at the forthcoming local elections has been rejected by a High Court judge.

Ministers announced last year that 11 local authorities would take part in pilot schemes at elections in May, although two councils have since withdrawn.

Neil Coughlan, 64, from Witham in Essex, brought a crowdfunded legal action against the Government, arguing the pilots would prevent people from voting.

His lawyers said the proposed schemes were not valid under the Representation of the People Act 2000, which sets out rules for the way elections are run.

But his case was dismissed on Wednesday by Mr Justice Supperstone, who said the pilot schemes had been "made lawfully".

Mr Coughlan raised more than £32,500 through the CrowdJustice website to fund his legal action.

Under the pilots, voters in the participating areas will have to meet ID requirements, as set out by each local authority, to be able to cast their ballot.

The Government is running the pilots with a view to rolling out voter ID nationwide in future elections.

The areas set to take part are Pendle, Woking, Broxtowe, Derby, North Kesteven, Braintree, Mid Sussex, Watford and North West Leicestershire.

Earlier trials were carried out in five English boroughs during the 2018 local elections and research from the Electoral Commission found more than 1,000 people were turned away due to incorrect identification.

Announcing the pilots in November, the Cabinet Office said it was working with a "broad range" of organisations to ensure its policy would reflect the needs of all UK voters.

It also said local authorities will provide alternative methods of ID, free of charge, to anyone who does not have a specified form of ID, so everyone who is registered to vote has the opportunity to do so.