Bishop protests about election law changes
A senior Church of England bishop has raised serious concerns about new election laws that he believes could adversely impact "the poorest and the most marginalised."
The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, has spoken out against new regulations that mean voters will have to bring photo ID with them when they come to the polling stations. The new rules come into force at local elections in May.
Bishop Smith, who convenes the CofE bishops sitting in the UK's House of Lords, said: "All the evidence suggests that this is likely adversely to affect the poorest and the most marginalised.
"If you're struggling to make ends meet, and you're working long hours, to have to go and get another form of identity if you haven't got one readily at hand...it's much more likely to mean that people may say, 'It's just too difficult.'
"We already have a problem getting people out to the ballot boxes, so why make it more difficult?"
The controversial new rules were introduced in response to allegations of voter fraud, but figures released by the Electoral Commission show low levels of proven fraud across all types of elections.
Bishop Smith said: "We're asking 47 million people to have to go through extra hoops for what is a pretty minor problem."
In response to the change in election law, the bishop is encouraging all churches to publicise the change so that people are not caught out at the polling stations.
He said: "I would encourage people, if it's possible, to put up a poster, raise it with people – we want to encourage people to engage in the democratic process.
"That's what healthy democracies do – we want to actively try and get as many citizens as possible thinking about how society can best serve and care for people, but particularly look out for the people who are struggling for various reasons."
Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK, and the author of 'Responding to Post-truth.'