Evidence is building that the Government’s flagship voter ID policy is heading for failure and election day chaos in May as millions still lack the necessary ID to vote on election day.
Last month polling by Omnisis for the Byline Times found that 60% of voters do not know they will be unable to vote in England’s May 4 elections if they don’t have a ‘valid’ form of photo ID.
Now the Guardian has revealed that just 10,000 people have registered for the new Voter Authority Certificate – the free government-issued ID that would allow voters, who don’t already possess photo identification to cast their ballot.
Voter ID is the biggest change to how our elections work in a generation and the fact that, less than 100 days away from polling day, millions still lack the means to vote is deeply worrying.
The government have long claimed that their free ID would ensure that nobody is unable to cast a ballot, but these figures show that the vast majority of those who need one are yet to register – meaning we could see thousands turned away on election day.
This low response was not unexpected, the Government’s own research suggests that many of those who lack ID simply wouldn’t leep through another hurdle to register for the required ID to cast their ballot.
The Guardian’s revelations are just the latest sign that the hasty rollout of the policy, which will apply for the first time in May’s local elections, could cause tens of thousands of voters to be turned away from the polling station.
In November it was revealed that the Electoral Commission had privately warned the government that its plans for implementation of the controversial policy are neither “secure” nor “workable” by May’s elections with others, such as the Local Government Association and the AEA expressing concerns over the speed with which ministers have forced the policy thorough.
Election experts and democracy campaigners, such as ourselves, have repeatedly warned the government more needs to be done to increase awareness of the changes. But ministers have refused even simple steps, such as writing directly to voters to inform them about new requirements.
Despite repeated warnings Ministers have pushed ahead and as a result, the UK now has more restrictive voter ID laws than many US states and we can see already what the impact on voters will be.
It’s time that ministers think again about this dangerous policy – if they don’t, they risk chaos at the polls in May and risk undermining free and fair elections across the UK.
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