Campaigners claim ‘countless examples’ of would-be voters turned away over ID
Campaigners have reported “countless examples” of would-be voters being turned away from polling stations on the first elections where photo identification is mandatory.
The Electoral Reform Society, which has strongly opposed the introduction, urged ministers to rethink the new law as voters went to the polls in the local elections in England on Thursday.
But the Association of Electoral Administrators said the polls were “running as smoothly as usual”.
The council and mayoral elections are the first time in England that identification from a defined list has been mandatory to cast a vote.
Labour is among those criticising the Government’s move, warning that it could lock millions out of voting.
On Thursday, Conservative MP for Southend West Anna Firth said she had to go back to the car to retrieve her ID so she could vote as she reminded people not to forget their documentation.
If you arrive at a polling station without bringing your ID, you’ll be asked to return with an accepted form of photo ID.
Check the list and don’t forget: https://t.co/FlGDP2RcYj
— Electoral Commission (@ElectoralCommUK) May 4, 2023
Jess Garland, the Electoral Reform Society’s director of policy and research, said: “We’re already seeing countless examples of people being denied their right to vote due to these new laws.
“From people caught out by having the wrong type of photo ID to others turned away for not looking enough like their photo.
“One voter turned away is one voter too many. The Government must take lessons from the problems we’re seeing today at polling stations across the country and face up to the fact that these new rules damage our elections more than they protect them.”
In the early afternoon, the Association of Electoral Administrators said that no major problems had been reported, though it would likely not hear about individual voters being turned away.
Chief executive Peter Stanyon said: “Polling day appears to be running as smoothly as usual, which is testament to the months of planning and hard work from returning officers and electoral administrators running today’s elections.
“We hope the rest of the day continues along the same lines.”
But Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said she had been told of issues in her constituency.
We’ve had reports by our tellers of people being turned away at polling stations for lack of correct ID. That’s just in my constituency so far. Across the country I’m worried this will be significant numbers and far more than the exactly 0 people found guilty of fraud last year.
— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) May 4, 2023
“We’ve had reports by our tellers of people being turned away at polling stations for lack of correct ID,” she said.
“Across the country I’m worried this will be significant numbers and far more than the exactly 0 people found guilty of fraud last year.”
The Electoral Commission, which was given £5.6 million to carry out a public awareness campaign, has tasked councils with recording how many would-be voters are turned away.
No record will be made if greeters deployed outside polling stations turn people away.
The watchdog plans to publish its initial findings into how the ID mandate affected voting in the coming weeks.
The Government has estimated that around 4% of Britain’s population – or two million people – were unlikely to have a valid form of photo ID to vote.
Passports, driving licences and blue badges are among the IDs permitted, as are the free certificates that could be applied for ahead of the vote.
Photo ID will be required in England during future general elections under the policy.
On Thursday, more than 8,000 council seats were being contested across 230 local authorities, while mayors were being selected in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.