Today my legal challenge to the government’s voter ID plans was issued in the High Court.
Don’t let 2019 be the year the Tories shut down democracy.
— Neil Coughlan (@NeilCoughlan5) January 11, 2019
The government will fight a legal challenge to controversial plans to force voters to bring photo ID with them to cast their ballots.
Essex man Neil Coughlan, who is 64 and doesn’t have photo ID, will formally request a judicial review on Friday as he believes the government shake-up is discriminatory.
He raised more than £20,000 online and hired a team of lawyers at Leigh Day solicitors after ministers used secondary legislation to push through a series of pilot projects.
Five English councils asked for voter ID at elections in May 2018 and 11 are due to hold a range of checks in the 2019 elections.
In 2016 there were 44 allegations of impersonation – casting a vote in someone else’s name – up from 21 in 2014.
Since then, the government has said rolling out voter ID requirement was the “common-sense next step” in electoral security.
The government has said it will defend the proceedings by Coughlan and that councils will offer residents alternative forms of ID free of charge so people can vote.
Shadow minister for voter engagement, Labour MP Cat Smith, said her party backed the challenge as she felt forcing through voter ID amounted to “closing down democracy”.
She said: “This case is about defending everyone’s right to vote, and we applaud Neil for standing up against the government’s unnecessary, undemocratic and unpopular plans.
“After the fiasco we saw at last year’s local elections, with hundreds of legitimate voters turned away from polling stations, it’s a disgrace that the Tories are ploughing on with proposals that could be unlawful.”
Coughlan’s case will say that the Representation of the People Act 2000 blocks ministers from introducing the pilot projects as they restricted voting rights.
His lawyers will argue case seeks any change to voting and testing of Voter ID requirements are lawful should only be legal if a new law is debated and voted on in parliament.
Coughlan has previously told reporters he wants “to stand up against a government that is taking our democracy down a very dangerous path.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman told HuffPost UK: “Local authorities will provide voters with alternative methods of ID free of charge, to ensure that everyone eligible to vote has the opportunity to.”