Cash-strapped councils to spend £1.3 million on 40,000 mirrors as part of voter ID scheme

Doug Cowan, Head of Digital

Posted on the 1st November 2022

A parliamentary question has revealed yet more details of the government’s expensive scheme to demand ID at polling stations.

Luke Pollard MP asked the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities how many mirrors would be needed to conduct checks on people with religious face coverings. The answer was around 40,000 – one per polling station. Along with privacy screens, this part of the scheme alone will cost £1.3 million.

It’s vital people’s needs are addressed when attending a polling station but it’s not the lack of mirrors and privacy booths that will deter voters but the unnecessary requirement to show photo ID instead.

The government expects that banning those without the right sorts of ID from voting will cost in total up to £180 million a decade. The mirrors and screens are just one small part of a massive undertaking. Each decade the voter ID scheme will cost £55m on bigger poll cards to notify voters of the new restrictions, £20m on 19,851 more poll clerks, £9m for the Electoral Commission, £20m on communications, £7m on training and £2m on equipment.

A cost to taxpayers and a cost to voters

It’s not just the public, as taxpayers, that are having to pick up this bill. We’ll all have to pay the price through wasted time queuing up at the polling station as tired poll workers decide who gets to vote and who is disenfranchised as they grew a beard and don’t look like their photo anymore. With an election there is no appeals process and you can’t cast your vote the next day if there has been a mistake.

Anyone that has had to join a queue to get their passport stamped knows how much of a difference having to spend a few extra moments on checking documents can take.  When this is multiplied by hundreds or thousands of people at polling stations across the country you begin to see the scale of the issue.

We’ll also have to pay for the ID required to vote, or take time off work to sit in a distant local council waiting room and complete the forms required to get a ‘free’ identity letter.

Ministers should use their new mirrors to have a long hard look at themselves

This is yet another result of the government’s warped priorities when it comes to our elections. Instead of encouraging more people to vote, they’re putting up barriers instead. Now ministers find themselves faced with finding solutions to the problems their own ID policy has created for voters.

Millions of people lack photo ID in the UK, and these undemocratic plans risk blocking them from the ballot box. Nobody should be turned away from a polling station, or have to wait in line at their local council to be approved to vote, because their driving license is still in their maiden name, or they lost their passport.

The government has repeatedly failed to justify the need for this unnecessary policy and it’s time for them to think again. Instead, ministers must focus on improving access to the ballot box rather than implementing ID requirements that could see millions turned away or put off voting altogether.

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