About 14,000 people were unable to vote in this year’s local elections because they could not present the required form of photo identification, according to new data from the Electoral Commission.
New data from the May 4 vote shows that approximately 14,000 (or 0.25% of people) who went to a polling station were unable to vote.
The figures also suggested that “people with disabilities and the unemployed were more likely than other groups to give an identification-related reason for not voting.”
The actual number is said to be higher because some potential voters may have walked away from their polling station after reading the voter ID requirements at the gate. These would not have been fully recorded, the Commission said.
Royal College of Surgeons stops opposing assisted dying as most surgeons support
BASC will start legal action against Defra
The Electoral Commission, which is an independent body, said the numbers of people turned away were “worrisome”.
Accepted forms of identification include passports, driver’s licenses, and blue badges. Local elections on May 4 were the first time the controversial new rules on voter identification were put to the test.
Craig Westwood, the commission’s communications director, said a “majority of voters” were able to vote during local elections. But he added: “Some people were prevented from voting at polling stations because of the requirement, and significantly more didn’t try because they lacked the required identification.”
Westwood said more work needed to be done to improve the situation before a full report in September.
In May, former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg MP claimed that the new voter ID rules were an attempt by his Conservative party to rig local elections.
Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference, he said: “Parties that try and manipulate end up finding their clever scheme come back to bite them, as I dare say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.
“We found that people without ID were older and generally voted Conservative, so we made it difficult for our own voters and upset a system that was working perfectly well.”
The Electoral Commission said the figures, however, showed “very high awareness” of the new rules on voter identification, with more than half of those who arrived at polling stations aware of the free certificate program.
Responding to the data, Deputy Labor Leader Angela Rayner said it was “particularly alarming that underrepresented groups appear to have been more likely” to have been denied a vote. She added that voter ID rules are having a “chilling effect on democracy.”
“Jacob Rees-Mogg’s admission that this vile scheme was designed to rig the rules to keep voters out revealed the cold truth behind it,” he said in a statement.
Helen Morgan, local government spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It looks like a transparent attempt at voter suppression by Tory ministers who are desperate to prevent the people from holding them to account by any means possible.”
The SNP described him as a “damaging threat to democracy in the UK”.
The House of Commons Select Committee on Levelling, Housing and Communities announced yesterday that it will question the Electoral Commission and electoral administrators on July 3 to understand the impact of the new law.