Now we know at least 14,000 were blocked from voting, voter ID should be scrapped

Doug Cowan, Head of Digital

Posted on the 11th July 2023

On the 23rd June, the Electoral Commission published their provisional report on the rollout of voter ID. One figure stands out from their research: 14,000 eligible voters were denied their democratic right to cast their ballots on polling day.

At the Electoral Reform Society, we believed that every citizen should be able to exercise their voting rights without unnecessary obstacles. Voting lies at the heart of our democracy, and any barrier that prevents even a single person from casting their rightful vote is an affront to the principles of British democracy we all hold dear.

The government should scrap this ill-thought-through and unnecessary scheme, ensuring that we prevent similar scenes from unfolding during the next General Election.

The Electoral Commission’s figure of 14,000 is just the number of people who made it to the polling station, asked for their vote and were told to come back with ID, but then never returned. For many people, voting on the way to work or when travelling home, picking up their ID is not a simple case of popping back. People working long hours or with caring responsibilities can’t casually change plans and throw off those who depend on them.

These 14,000 people either hadn’t heard of the change, forgot their ID or were confused by the complicated rules. When we collected people’s first-hand accounts of why they were turned away, we heard many stories of people believing the government’s line that it would be like picking up a parcel so bringing ID, before finding out the government wouldn’t accept it for voting.

The chilling effect of voter ID

The Electoral Commission conducted a poll to find out how many people never attended the polling station in the first place due to the government’s new rules. The Guardian calculated that if turnout was similar to previous years, it could mean at least 400,000 didn’t vote.

In most years there are 30-40 allegations of impersonation at the ballot box. This would make the supposed solution at least 10,000 times worse than the problem it is supposed to solve.

We need more monitoring of voter ID

With upcoming by-elections scheduled in areas that did not hold local elections this year, and do not have any experience of the new rules, it is essential to monitor the impact of voter ID provisions adequately.

The government needs to recognize the significant concerns raised by the Electoral Commission’s figures and act swiftly to reverse course on voter ID. The evidence is clear: this policy poses a threat to our democratic values and restricts access to the ballot box. Instead, we should focus on strengthening our electoral system by dealing with the millions of people who aren’t even registered to vote.

The government needs to listen to the evidence, recognize the harm caused by these provisions, and take immediate action to dismantle this barrier to democratic participation. We can’t risk these rules in the next General Election.

Add your name to our call to scrap these rules

Add your name: One voter turned away is one too many

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