Thousands of voters turned away from polling stations in mandatory ID trials

Posted on the 4th May 2018

Electoral Reform Society analysis of electoral observer data estimates that nearly 4,000 would-be voters in just five council areas were turned away yesterday over lack of ID.

Thousands of people were told they could not vote because of “draconian” ID requirements in five areas yesterday, according to analysis by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). 

Based on figures released by electoral observers at ID trial area polling stations [1], the ERS estimate 3,981 people were denied a ballot paper across the five pilot areas (1.67% of those who tried to vote) [2]

Voter ID trials took place in Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon in what the campaigners have branded a “dark day for politics.”

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Britain prides itself on being a leading democracy – but it is a dark day for politics when thousands of blameless people turn out to vote only to be refused.

“Our estimates, based on evidence gathered by electoral observers, reveal the shocking scale of the problem. These trials have been shown up to be the chaotic, undemocratic mess many predicted.

“These findings are exactly what many feared: that this draconian measure would result in blameless individuals being disenfranchised.

“And personal accounts which have emerged are equally disturbing. There have been people who have voted their entire lives but were denied that right yesterday because of these ill-thought-out trials.

“For months we have been warning about the possible negative impacts of these trials and highlighting that there was no justification for the new requirements to be introduced.

“It is vital moving forward that these draconian trials are not a fait accompli for a national roll-out.”

The Democracy Volunteers report, on which the ERS analysis was based, does not take into account whether voters came back with the correct ID having initially been turned away.

It is also impossible to know how many people were put off from entering a polling station altogether because of the new ID requirements.

In advance of Thursday, the ERS had published an extensive analysis which looked at international evidence of the potentially negative impact on disadvantaged groups. [3]. 

The campaigners had also questioned the evidence base on which the trials were based. Figures from the Electoral Commission show there were just 28 allegations of impersonation in 2017 out of nearly 45 million votes in 2017 – or one case for every 1.6 million votes cast. Only one of these allegations resulted in a conviction.

Senior officials in trials areas expressed their concerns about the trials, while the government was criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for pushing misleading figures to support the need for the pilots. [4]


Notes to Editors

[1] The report by Democracy Volunteers can be read here:

[2] Research methodology: ERS estimates are based on the findings of Democracy Volunteers which found 1.67% of all voters across the five pilot areas were turned away because they did not have the required ID.

The total number of ballots issued in each borough was taken from the relevant councils’ websites. The figure was then divided by 98.33 to give a figure equivalent to 1% turnout in the hypothetical event that the 1.67% had been allowed to vote.

This was then multiplied by 1.67 to give an estimated number of voters potentially denied their vote in each pilot area.

It should be noted that the Democracy Volunteers report does not take into account whether voters came back with the correct ID having initially been turned away.


[4] and

Accounts of individuals turned away from polling stations have been reported here:

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