Official figures show 740 people denied the vote in mandatory ID trials

Posted on the 22nd July 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 22 July 2019.
  • Contact [email protected] or 07794728820 for further comment/information

More than 700 people were denied a vote for not having ID in May’s local elections, official figures reveal today [1]. 

The Electoral Commission figures show that in total 1,968 people were initially refused a ballot paper across the 10 trial areas for not having the right ID.

More than half of those later returned to vote. But 740 of them did not later return with ID – indicating they were denied a vote.

The Electoral Reform Society have called for an immediate halt to the mandatory voter ID plans.

It comes after the ERS highlighted Electoral Commission figures showing there were just eight allegations of personation fraud – the type voter ID is meant to prevent – in the whole of the UK last year [2], out of millions of votes cast.

That suggests the number of people denied a vote in the 10 council wards trialling voter ID outnumbers the scale of alleged voter fraud in the whole UK by a factor of almost 100. Despite this, the government remains determined to roll out mandatory voter ID nationwide.

Before the local elections, the ERS was joined by major charities and civil society groups including Age UK and Liberty, in calling for a halt to the ‘dangerous and undemocratic’ voter ID scheme [3]. The organisations argue the ‘show your papers’ policy could exclude many young, old and marginalised people who lack ID from the ballot box.

None of the five areas chosen to test voter ID in 2018 – Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford, and Swindon – had recorded any cases of voter impersonation in recent years, suggesting the policy was based on ‘ideology over evidence’ [4].

Previous analysis by the Local Government Chronicle found that there were several cases where the number of those denied a vote could have potentially impacted election results where candidates won by just a handful of votes [5]. In Mid Sussex, where, 78 people didn’t vote after being turned away for not having a poll card or photo ID with them, there were three instances in which a candidate won by less than 25 votes, LGC reported.

The Mirror reported that in Pendle, an 87 year-old women who had voted in every election in her adult life was turned away for not having ID [6].

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society, 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.

“Mandatory voter ID poses an unprecedented risk to democratic access and equality. Millions lack the required forms of identification and these plans, if rolled out nationwide, could see tens of thousands of legitimate voters lose their voice.

“Trust in our democratic system is vital – which is why ministerial scaremongering about fraud is especially dangerous.

“Ministers must now focus on combating the real threats to our democracy – rather than suppressing voters’ rights.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-voter-id-pilots-2019?utm_source=b23baa69-4a69-42ec-86ab-5d875128c129&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

[2] Read the ERS’ briefing on the recent voter ID trials: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/local-elections-experts-warn-voter-id-plans-could-undermine-the-right-to-vote/

[3] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/local-elections-charities-and-civil-society-groups-in-stark-joint-warning-over-mandatory-voter-id-scheme/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/01/government-claim-of-voter-surge-misleading-says-watchdog

[6] https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/revealed-hundreds-disenfranchised-in-voter-id-pilots-13-05-2019/

[5] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/local-elections-woman-87-whos-14984757

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