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Neil Coughlan

Essex man set to appeal High Court ruling that Government's Voter ID pilots are lawful

​Neil Coughlan, 64, from Witham in Essex is set to apply to the Court of Appeal following a High Court judgment on 20 March 2019 which held that the Government's plans to pilot a requirement to show ID before being issued a ballot paper in the May 2019 local elections in some areas are lawful.

Posted on 20 March 2019

Mr Coughlan believes the pilot schemes are unlawful under the Representation of the People Act 2000 and will have the effect of preventing or deterring people from voting in the 2019 local elections. He also argues that the Government’s claim that the scheme is being implemented to help tackle voter fraud does not withstand scrutiny as the evidence suggests that cases of voter fraud by impersonation are exceedingly rare.
Under the pilots, prospective voters in the participating areas will be required to meet ID requirements set down by the respective local authority in order to vote. The Government is running the pilots with a view to rolling out the voter ID requirement nationally in future elections.
Although the High Court found that Mr Coughlan’s case was arguable, it decided that the power under s.10 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 permitting experimental changes to “…how voting at the election is to take place” is wide enough to encompass adding a requirement to produce ID before being able to vote.
Mr Coughlan, who is fundraising for the case via CrowdJustice, said:
"Of course, I am disappointed with the outcome of the case, however, I feel strongly that these measures will disproportionately affect poorer and marginalised people, making it harder for them to vote by placing unnecessary obstacles in their way. I shall therefore be seeking leave to appeal."
Tom Short, solicitor at Leigh Day who is representing Mr Coughlan, said:
“It is disappointing for our client that although the High Court has found his case was arguable, it has not accepted our arguments as to whether the pilot schemes introducing ID requirements are lawful. However, we remain of the view that pilot schemes that test nothing other than a requirement for prospective voters to show ID before they are allowed to vote are outside the scope of the Cabinet Office’s powers. Mr Coughlan is undeterred and will be seeking permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal.”