My name is Neil Coughlan and I live in Witham in Essex.
Next May, for the first time ever, I will be asked to show identification in order to cast my vote at the local government election.
This legal challenge is vital for defending our democracy against the Government's dangerous Voter ID plans, which will suppress voter participation, particularly in less affluent wards, where turnout is all too often, already low. I am extremely concerned that the Government is trying to make it harder for people to vote so I am taking legal action. Please contribute what you can and share this page with yourfriends, family and on social media.
This case is about protecting our democratic right to vote, and making sure our democracy is open and accessible equally to everyone.
I have decided that I am going to stand up against a Government that is taking our democracy down a very dangerous path.
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Braintree District Council is one of eleven boroughs across England taking part in the Government’s pilot schemes, before the Government attempts to roll out voter ID at the next General Election.
The Windrush scandal devastated the lives of individuals and their families, however, it also demonstrated that many British citizens do not have official documentation.
I myself do not have any form of photo ID, nor do any of my immediate family members, and I know many people in my community who are also in that position.
I feel that these measures will unfairly discriminate against not only myself, but also others in a similar position across the district and beyond, who are unable to provide with the same ease, identification, that ministers and civil servants take for granted, and naively think we all possess.
The Government has designed Voter ID as a solution to tackle the specific issue of voter impersonation in polling stations (when someone is pretending to be somebody else in order to cast one fake vote) however, this kind of fraud is an incredibly rare event, in fact, I cannot remember a single incident in my Council district in the forty years I have lived here.
The Government is forcing these pilots through parliament using secondary legislation, and MPs will not have the opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s plans.
However, according to my legal team which includes leading barristers at Blackstone Chambers, the Government through the Minister of the Cabinet Office is acting unlawfully in doing so as it does not have the power under the Representation of the People Act 2000 to introduce pilots like these which restrict voting rights.
The pilots will affect all electors in Braintree and the other pilot areas in the upcoming local elections in May 2019 but worse than that, if we don’t challenge this now, in future, Voter ID requirements could be rolled out nationally.
Given the significance of voter ID and the ramifications it will have for our democracy, it is only right that MPs who represent our communities are able to have a say over the Government’s plans.
This case seeks to ensure that any change to the voting and testing of Voter ID requirements are lawful and subject to proper Parliamentary scrutiny and debate. Leigh Day solicitors have sent a formal letter of claim on my behalf and unless the Government back down will be issuing proceedings shortly. We will be seeking an expedited hearing.
How much am I raising and why?
To cover my legal fees, I have set up a crowdfunding page. I need your help to pay the court costs, the costs if we lose (nothing is certain) and at least some of our lawyers' costs who have all agreed to work at heavily discounted rates. The first stage is to raise £10,000 to start the ball rolling but we need to raise another £30,000 to see this through to the end.
I am not wealthy and call on all those concerned about the future of our democracy to help me take on this battle against the Government. Please contribute and share this page now!
Facts about voter ID
- 3.5 million electors (7.5% of the electorate) do not have any photo ID. If restricted to passports and driving licenses, potentially 11 million electors (24% of the electorate) would not have the right ID.
- In 2017 there were 28 allegations of impersonation out of nearly 45 million votes cast. This reflects 1 case for every 1.6 million votes cast. Of those 28 allegations, 1 case resulted in a conviction.
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