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New Voter ID Rules Stopped Some People From Voting

(Alamy)

4 min read

New data from the Electoral Commission has shown that around one in 25 people who did not vote at this year's local elections did so because of new voter ID rules.

May's local elections were the first poll where people were required by law to present an official form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence, in order to be allowed to vote. The rules were introduced uner the government's controversial Elections Act 2022. 

An interim report from the Electoral Commission, released today, estimates that around 0.25 per cent of people who tried to vote in May – around 14,000 – were not issued with a ballot paper because of the requirement to show photo ID. 

The figures also show that four per cent of people who did not vote at these elections cited the ID requirements as the reason. Three per cent said that they did not have the necessary ID, while 1 per cent said they did not agree with the new rules. 

Ahead of the May elections, the policy had faced criticism from opposition parties who had said it would make it harder to vote for certain groups. 

In today's report, the Electoral Commission said that the 0.25 per cent figure was an “underestimate”. 

This is “partly as a result of data quality issues but also because some people will have been reminded of the ID requirement before they could be recorded in the data,” they added.  

In May, PoliticsHome reported concerns that there could be gaps in the data supposed to record the number of people who had been turned away from voting as a result of not having correct ID. 

Local government figures were concerned over the accuracy of the collection as the data on a person being turned away from voting could only be officially recorded at the ballot issuing desk at every polling station. 

However, some polling stations may also have had staff acting as “greeters” at the door, who can remind people about the need for voter ID. The greeters could not officially record if a person leaves without casting their vote if they do not have ID. 

The Commission have now said that they "working to understand" the challenges people faced with voter ID and will later "make recommendations that, with the engagement of Government and wider electoral community, will support the participation of all voters”.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said the new rules are having a “chilling effect on democracy.” 

“No legitimate voter should be locked out of democracy but that has been the effect of the Tories’ failed voter ID regulations,” Rayner said. 

The Liberal Democrats said it was an “outrage” that thousands of people had been unable to vote. 

“Obstructing people’s right to vote like this in such a disproportionate way is a complete waste of money that undermines our democracy," their local government spokesperson Helen Morgan said.

“It looks like a transparent attempt at voter suppression by Conservative ministers who are desperate to stop people from holding them to account by any means possible.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “It’s vital we keep our democracy secure, prevent the potential for voter fraud, and bring the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland which has had photo identification to vote in elections since 2003.

“We welcome the Electoral Commission’s interim report on the May’s local elections which shows that the vast majority of voters – 99.75 per cent - were able to cast their vote successfully and adapted well to the rollout of voter identification in Great Britain.

“These encouraging findings are also reflective of the confidence we always had in the ability of local authorities to implement these changes while continuing to deliver our elections robustly and securely.”

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