Voter ID trials to go ahead as Labour accuse ministers of trying to 'rig future elections'

Posted On: 
22nd July 2019

Controversial plans to make all Brits show ID at polling stations are set to go ahead - despite more than 1,000 have been denied a vote during trials.

The Government said voters felt more secure when they were asked to show ID at polling stations
Credit: 
PA Images

The Electoral Commission said the system “ran well” in the ten local authorities which took part in a trial run at May’s local elections.

And the Cabinet Office said voters were more confident their election was secure from voter fraud when they were required to show photographic ID at the polling station.

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But Labour pointed out that more than 1,100 people had been denied a vote due to the pilots in 2018 and 2019 as they accused the Government of trying “to shut down democracy”.

Shadow minister for voter engagement Cat Smith said: “It is now clear that the Government’s fixation with Voter ID is a blatant attempt by the Tories to rig the result of future elections by voter suppression.”

She said Labour had been warning for years “restrictive identification requirements will make it harder for people to vote”, and is “calling for these undemocratic and unpopular pilot schemes to be abandoned immediately”.  

The party flagged figures from the Electoral Commission's study which show that in May this year more than 2,000 people were turned away from polling stations for not having the correct form of ID - with around 750 not returning later to vote.

This is on top of the 350 voters who did not cast their ballot in the 2018 pilot schemes due to not having the right identification.

The Electoral Commission themselves admit the results do not “allow definitive conclusions to be drawn” about its impact if it was rolled out across the country, and say “several important questions remain about how an identification requirement would work in practice”.

But the report says the proportion of voters who were turned away ranged from just 0.03% to 0.7% - and said and polling station staff were “confident they could manage the process of people showing identification at a future election”.

Craig Westwood from the elections watchdog said: “Government and Parliament now need to consider carefully the available evidence about the impact of different approaches, on the accessibility and security of polling station voting.”

'NO ADVERSE EFFECT'

The Government said the evaluation “illustrates that the overwhelming majority of people who came to polling stations were able to cast their vote” and each local authority that took part “considered their election a success”.

Cabinet Office minister Kevin Foster said the results showed the trials were "reasonable and proportionate" as he vowed to press ahead with the scheme.

"The introduction of this measure across Great Britain will strengthen the integrity of our electoral system and give the public confidence our elections are secure and fit for the 21st century," he said.

Mr Foster added: "Both last year’s pilots and decades of experience of Northern Ireland - including at the most recent local elections - show voter ID does not have an adverse effect on election turnout or participation. We remain committed to rolling out this effective anti-fraud measure and bringing the whole of the United Kingdom into line with Northern Ireland, which has required ID to vote in elections since 1985."

But campaign group the Electoral Reform Society are calling for mandatory voter ID schemes to be scrapped, calling it “an unprecedented risk to democratic access and equality”.

Jess Garland from the group said: "These official figures pose a stark warning about the Government’s undemocratic push for mandatory voter ID.

"It is clear that, once again, the number of people denied their rightful vote far outstrips the levels of impersonation at the ballot box."