A VOTER is launching a legal challenge against a government plan to pilot a scheme requiring residents to show ID before they can vote at elections.

Neil Coughlan, from Witham, says the government doesn't have the authority to introduce the pilots which he claims will deter people from voting in the 2019 local elections.

The 64-year-old says he doesn't have photographic ID and believes many of his neighbours don't have the necessary documents to allow them to vote either.

He believes many will be discouraged from voting in the 11 pilot areas - one of which is the Braintree district - and is concerned that if this scheme is rolled out nationally it will serve to disenfranchise many voters.

Mr Coughlan said: “This legal challenge is vital for defending our democracy against the government's dangerous Voter ID plans, which I believe 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."

The Witham man is arguing the pilots are unlawful under the Representation of the People Act 2000 because there is no legal basis for the government to make changes to the voting system.

He says the decision to bring in the pilot schemes will be made by the government using secondary legislation, therefore bypassing the chance for parliament to have its say.

Meanwhile, a crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000 to fund his case has been set up.

Figures from the Electoral Commission show that if the idea was rolled out across the country the impact could be huge with around 3.5million voters not having any form of photo ID.

Tessa Gregory, from law firm Leigh Day which is representing Mr Coughlan, said: “Any changes which could restrict or deter people from carrying out their democratic right to vote ought to be subject to proper scrutiny by parliament.

"Our client believes that the Minister is acting unlawfully in introducing these Voter ID pilot schemes because, by making it harder for people to vote, he is going beyond the powers given to him by parliament under the Representation of the People Act 2000."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We want people to have confidence that our elections are safeguarded against any threat or perception of electoral fraud.

"Electors in Braintree will be able to bring non photo ID as well as photo ID to prove who they are. Where electors have neither, locally issued ID will be made available free of charge."