Government report can’t say if voter ID made any difference to problem it was supposed to solve

Jessica Garland, Director of Policy and Research

Posted on the 8th December 2023

The government has published its evaluation of the Elections Act changes, including the voter ID requirement, used for the first time in the English local elections in May. Back in September, three separate independent reports exposed the extent of the unnecessary damage voter ID has wrought to our democracy. It’s something we have long campaigned on, so the government’s official report was certainly an interesting read…

No impact… for those with ID

The government’s reports finds that overall the introduction of voter ID “did not impact on the likelihood or experience of voting in the May 2023 English local elections” … for people who have one of the accepted forms of ID. Those who do not have one of the accepted forms of ID “were much more likely to say that the voter identification requirement made them less likely to vote”.

This highlights the problem we have been raising, that this scheme creates an unnecessary barrier to people without photographic ID. It is unacceptable that democratic rights would be restricted to those who have certain (expensive) forms of ID.

No identifiable difference in rates of personation

The report confirms that 14,000 voters were turned away and did not return at the local elections, and a further 350 in the by-elections. The report also notes that there were just two allegations of personation at the May elections which is ‘consistent’ with previous elections – before the introduction of the ID scheme.

The report concludes that the evidence is ‘inconclusive’ on whether the scheme has reduced personation or made it more easily identifiable. So not only have over 14,000 people lost their vote this year, this loss has made no identifiable difference to personation fraud which was already vanishingly rare.

Voter ID’s impact on poll workers

One of the major issues given little attention in this report is the pressure put on electoral administrators  – issues dramatically highlighted in the LGIU’s report in September. That report highlighted the additional pressure that voter ID has put on polling staff with 76% of electoral administrators saying these elections were more stressful than usual. The government’s report notes concerns about resources, staffing and lead times for a general election but does not reflect the scale of the challenges set out by administrators.

The government’s report notes that of the polling staff who dropped out before election day, a fifth said this was because of the new measures. The LGIU report finds that the vast majority of electoral administrators think recruiting and retaining staff has been made more difficult by the introduction of voter ID.

Overall the government’s analysis paints a much rosier picture than the evidence would suggest. The impact of this scheme has fallen unevenly, affecting some voters much more than others, as recognised in the Electoral Commission’s report. And there are real concerns about the impact at a general election with a much higher turnout than at locals.

Voter ID: Was it worth it?

Most importantly, what it lacks is an honest assessment of whether the problems created by the scheme and the additional costs and pressures put on our elections are really worth it to solve a problem that didn’t exist in the first place.

Surely now is time to scrap this damaging and unnecessary scheme.

Add your name to our call to not risk these rules in the general election

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