GENERAL ELECTION 2019: Multiple Reports of Voter ID Suppression
Stephen Delahunty follows up worrying reports that voters have been turned away with false information they need ID to fill in a ballot paper.
As Britain goes to the polls, unverified reports have begun to emerge of alleged voter suppression as many voters seem confused about whether they need ID to vote in the General Election.
Reports of misleading advice from councils and polling booths has spread in many constituencies across the country.
Voters have complained that polling booths have insisted on ID and party campaigners have stood outside polling booths offering misleading advice, while overseas voters have not received their postal packs.
Many people have reported that Tory activists in Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency of Chingford and Woodgreen stood outside polling stations telling people they need ID to vote.
Dr Laura Sinclair, a medical physicist based in Dublin, told the Guardian that her voting forms for her home constituency in Hull failed to arrive. When she phoned the council to chase up the problem, she says it gave her conflicting stories – in the first case, that many of the postal votes had been lost; and in the second that she had failed to register in time. She also claims that she was refused an emergency proxy vote.
People who have not received their postal votes are still eligible to vote at their local polling station if they contact their local authority, although that is difficult for those voters who live overseas.
At Henleaze Library in Bristol, a man wearing a Conservative rosette was spotted telling people they need their polling cards. He was later reminded of the rules around campaigning outside polling stations by a police officer.
Kate Bex said on Twitter: “Two people outside polling station on Ifield Road in Chelsea and Fulham ward who asked for names and did not say we did not need to give them. They also asked if we had ID. No reason given for question and neither did they volunteer we do not need it.”
In May, voters in 10 areas of England ran a voter ID trial following a pilot in five areas in 2018, which saw hundreds of people refused a ballot paper. The Government said it was testing the scheme to combat potential voter fraud, although the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, said in 2018 that there was no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud. Of the 266 cases that were investigated by the police, one led to a conviction and two suspects accepted police cautions. In 2017, there was one conviction and eight suspects accepted police cautions.
In response to the reports circulating on social media today, the Electoral Commission said that people maybe getting confused by tellers who are volunteers for candidates and parties, who stand outside polling stations and record the number of electors who have voted. However, voters don’t have to give them any information if they do not want to.
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But any reports of individuals telling people they need ID to vote should be reported to the Electoral Commission with evidence. Parties, candidates and non-party campaigners can continue to make their arguments to voters on the day of a general election, but campaigning is not permitted in or directly around polling stations.
The Metropolitan Police have also been contacted to verify the reports.