‘Wake up everybody!’ was the message from campaigners against the government’s Elections Bill, which opponents say could disenfranchise millions of working-class voters.

The Totnes branch of the Make Votes Matter group joined a nationwide campaign against the bill, which was launched in July last year and is due to go before the House of Lords on February 23.

Campaigners in Totnes High Street warned that under the proposed new system, oversight of elections will be given to a Tory-controlled committee which will govern the independent Electoral Commission.

The campaigners also warn that the introduction of compulsory photographic identification will affect 2 million people who do not possess a driving licence or other photographic identification.

A disproportionate number without photographic ID are from younger, lower-income and marginalised groups, Make Votes Matter says.

Laurie Taylor, founder of Totnes Make Votes Matter, spoke out against the bill.

He accused the government of trying to rush the bill through Parliament.

“This is an act of Trump-style voter suppression.

“There will be mandatory photo ID for voters which may disenfranchise up to 2 million voters as well as marginalised minorities; the ‘problem’ of voter impersonation in the UK is almost non-existent.

“The bill will enable political interference with the, at present independent, Electoral Commission.

“There are also plans in the bill to extend our primitive, dysfunctional and dangerous First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system for the first time to mayoral and police and crime commissioners elections.

“Together with a number of other measures these add up to a government blatantly ‘fiddling the books’ in their favour.”

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, an independent body overseeing the fairness of elections and election spending, is calling on the government to stop the passage of the bill, saying the case for photo ID at polling stations has ‘simply not been good enough.’

The committee’s report also says proposals to set guidance for the Electoral Commission in a strategy and policy statement ‘risks undermining public confidence.’

Committee chairman, William Wragg, said: “While seeking to secure UK elections from potential voter fraud is a noble cause, we remain unconvinced that the scale of the problem justifies the solutions as they have been put forward.

“When people can be blocked from voting because they have incorrect documentation, have misplaced it or they have none, we must make doubly sure that the costs of the measures are commensurate with the risk.

“Likewise, any Government proposal which might directly or indirectly influence the independent regulator over its operations and decision-making will invite suspicion, especially when plans have been drawn up behind closed doors.

“The Electoral Commission must be impartial both in practice and in the public perception if it is to credibly maintain the integrity of our electoral system.

“We feel that the Elections Bill proposals lack a sufficient evidence base, timely consultation, and transparency, all of which should be addressed before it makes any further progress.”

Laurie urged residents to write to Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall at [email protected] and ask him to withdraw his support for the bill.

Laurie added: “If we remain unaware of how this government is diminishing democracy and tightening up its authoritarian control, we shouldn’t be surprised when we find that what we thought were bastions of democracy have been wrecked before our very (half-asleep?) eyes.”