We’re calling for an inquiry into failing voter ID implementation

Jon Narcross, former Communications Officer

Posted on the 4th November 2022

Long before the Elections Act was passed last year, we warned about the issues that implementing photographic voter ID requirements would cause. From ensuring access to the free form of ID was easy for the millions of voters who lack photo ID, to making sure that the new requirements wouldn’t deter voters from even attempting to head to the polling station on election day.

Now, just months before the first provision of the bill are set to be enacted in May 2023’s local elections, little has been done to ease these concerns. So the Electoral Reform Society has joined with other democracy organisations, Unlock Democracy and Hands of Our Vote, to call for an inquiry into the implementation of the voter ID by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The cross-party committee has itself expressed concern at some of the Act’s provisions and in the past few months various experts, electoral administrators and even the government’s own Infrastructure and Projects Authority have questioned the progress towards a smooth rollout of some of the bill’s provisions. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority have coded the Act’s implementation ‘red’ noting the “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable.”

Last month, an event of over 700 electoral professionals held by the Association of Electoral Administrators on behalf of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said they are still not confident voter ID can be delivered as planned, to the quality voters deserve.

At the ERS we’ve long warned of the potential impact of voter ID – a policy that will make it harder for millions to cast their vote and potentially shut many out from the ballot box. But if the government insists on introducing this damaging policy it must be done right.

Up and down the country electoral administrators are already thinking ahead towards next year’s elections but doing so without the certainty of knowing what’s required of them when it comes to voter ID.

The final list of what sorts of ID will be accepted has still not been announced by the government. Rather than being decided in parliament, this vital information is being cooked up behind the scenes by ministers.

The delays to important legislation key to the successful implementation of voter ID mean that, as these elections approach, it’s becoming less certain that every eligible voter will be able to cast their ballot.

As we move closer to the first set of elections where ID will be required, we’re only now seeing the impact of this ill-thought-out policy. Just last week it was revealed that councils will be required to purchase 40,000 mirrors and privacy screens – at an estimated cost of £1.3m for polling stations as part of the scheme – allowing people in religious headgear or face coverings to have their identity checked away from public view.

As the government casts around for projects to cancel, this ill-thought-out expensive scheme would be an ideal candidate. Scrapping the government’s plans to ban those without the right sorts of ID from voting could save up to £180 million a decade.

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