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Around 14,000 did not vote in English local elections due to photo ID requirement, says elections watchdog

23 Jun 2023 4 minute read
Photo by Rui Vieira PA Images

Around 14,000 people did not vote after being unable to show an accepted form of photo ID during England’s local elections, according to the Electoral Commission.

The elections watchdog said “significantly more” people likely did not turnout because of the new voter identification policy introduced by the Conservative UK Government.

May’s local elections were the first time voters were required to show ID before collecting their ballot paper at polling stations.

Passports, driving licences and blue badges were among the IDs permitted, as were the free certificates that could be applied for ahead of the vote.

Craig Westwood, director of communications at the independent body that oversees elections, said there was “concerning” evidence that disabled and unemployed people were, according to the commission’s findings, “more likely than other groups to give a reason related to ID for not voting”.

Commission officials said the data currently available suggested there is “some correlation” between the numbers turned away and “specific socio-demographic factors, such as ethnicity and unemployment”.

The watchdog is calling for work to be carried out to make sure elections remain accessible to all.

The ID policy will be widened to cover UK general elections from the autumn, meaning it is likely to be a requirement at the next Westminster election, expected to take place in 2024.

The measures will not apply for Senedd or local government elections in Wales.


Last month, former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared to describe the introduction of voter ID as an attempt at “gerrymandering” that backfired against the Tories.

Research published by the Electoral Commission on Friday indicated that 0.7% of people were initially turned away from polling stations in May, but around two-thirds of them returned later in the day and were able to vote.

It suggests that approximately 14,000 voters — 0.25% — who went to a polling station were not able to vote as a result of not being able to show ID.

Among those recorded as being turned away from a polling station, 70% had not brought any ID and 30% brought a type that was not accepted.

The commission said its analysis indicated a “very high awareness” of the need to produce photo identification and that more than half of people were aware that free IDs, in the form of Government-issued voter authority certificates, were available.

Close to 90,000 people applied for a voter authority certificate before the deadline, and 81,033 certificates were issued ahead of the locals, the commission reported.

However, only 25,000 were used as a form of ID on the day.

Prevented from voting

Mr Westwood said: “The evidence suggests that the vast majority of voters were able to present an accepted form of ID at the May elections.

“But it also shows that some people were prevented from voting in polling stations due to the requirement, and significantly more did not attempt to because they lacked the required ID.

“Overall awareness was high and achieved in a matter of months, but we can see that people who lacked ID were less likely to know they needed to show it.

“We don’t want to see a single voter lose the opportunity to have their say. We are working to understand the challenges people faced, and will make recommendations that, with the engagement of Government and wider electoral community, will support the participation of all voters.”

He said it was “too soon to draw conclusions” about the impact of the polling station policy on specific groups of people, but added that “some of the emerging evidence is concerning” in regards to its impact on disadvantaged people.

“Elections should be accessible to everyone, so we are working to build a better understanding of the specific experiences of voters at these elections. This includes consultation with those voters we know are most at risk of facing barriers to participation,” he added.

The commission plans to publish its full election report in September.

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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
9 months ago

‘Lockdown’ was a term associated with Covid. The Tory assault on all of our rights continues with the confirmation that they have denied an estimated 14000 people their basic democratic right to cast a vote. It may not sound a big number in the scheme of things but this trend is creeping forward and one more tweak of the rules could stop millions next time around. It seems to me that the only way to counter this abuse is to make the stand that we in Wales, those in Scotland and the regions of England, recognise the authority of their… Read more »

9 months ago

A tory policy that has worked!!!.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
9 months ago

Voter restrictions are just the latest Tory attempt to make the vote for other parties fall. Boundary changes and trying to stop EU nationals voting are amongst others methods used. Ultimately, the fall in Conservative voter’s amongst the young is what will be the biggest problem for the party in the future. Brexit (forget Erasmus and and free movement around the continent) difficulties in buying a home and poor working conditions (the gig economy is truly terrible) are just some of the reasons why many young people hate the Tories. Unless the party changes drastically – it’s future will be… Read more »

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