On the 3rd of May 2018, Bromley is taking part in a Voter ID pilot scheme at the Local Council Elections, along with Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking.

Bromley voters have to provide ID to vote at a polling station: either one photographic ID from a list which includes a passport, photo driving licence or Freedom Pass; or two non-photographic ID, such as a bank card, birth certificate, gas/electricity bill or bank statement.

Why and how is this major proposed change in the voting system important for elderly voters in Bromley?

According to an 'Older Persons Accommodation' Paper- 2016, Bromley has the largest elderly population in of all London boroughs, with the 2011 census showing approximately 5% of Bromley’s population over 80 years of age, compared with 3% for London as a whole.

Moreover, according to The POPPI (Projecting Older People Population Information) statistics, in 2015, Bromley was projected to make up 5.75% of over 65’s in London, and 6.4% of London’s 85 years+ population. Also, by 2030, the numbers of older people in Bromley show a marked increase in both age ranges.

So it is important to look at the hurdles that the elderly already face which may impact more on turnout to polling stations in the future. Limited mobility, ill health, living in long term care facilities or alone as well as difficulty with access to transport may play a significant role.

An Equality Impact Assessment document produced by the London Borough of Bromley Electoral Services in 2017, states that

“The main conclusion of this assessment in relation to the impact of participating in the pilot on protected groups and under-registered groups is that there do not appear to be any major issues, and that any potential impact on these groups can be addressed by the approaches proposed.”

However, within the document, it also says,

“Recent studies have shown that older people are less likely to have the appropriate ID (they may not hold passports and/or driving licences) and could be impacted by the pilot. The inclusion of the Oyster 60+London Pass and the Freedom Pass will help many over 60s in the borough.”

In fact, data from the 2011 census shows that while 83% of adults overall have a passport, only 70% of the over-65s and 46% over-85s actually have one. For driving licences, the National Travel Survey shows that while 73% of those aged 17-plus have one, only 62% over 70 or older, and 50% for women of this age group have one.

It appears that there is an important issue that needs to be taken into account.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said,

“With millions of people lacking the right photographic ID – and no government plans for a universal, free alternative – this can only mean another barrier for honest voters. The government know this, which makes this policy all the more concerning."

According to the Electoral Commission, there were only 28 allegations of impersonations out of nearly 45 million votes and only one resulted in a conviction.

Darren Hugues also added, “Mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’s time for an evidence-based approach instead."

It is clear that an honest debate needs to take place so that any scheme to tackle electoral fraud does not disenfranchise certain groups, including older people.

By Zahra D'Souza, Sydenham High School