SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: voter idUp to Two Million Potential Voters Put Off by New Photo ID Rules in May ElectionsNew Poll Suggests
In the latest in a series of reports, Byline Times reveals that the new mandatory voter ID requirements have caused widespread confusion and difficulties among would-be voters. Josiah Mortimer reports
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One in seven people were put off from voting due to England’s strict new voter ID rules in May’s local elections, polling suggests.
Fifteen per cent of those with elections in their area say they were unable to vote or were put off from voting due to the requirement to show photo ID at the polling station – a policy rolled out for the first time earlier this month – according to the new Omnisis polling for Byline Times.
There are 41 million potential voters in English local elections. Assuming a 2019 turnout of 33%, it equates to roughly two million would-be voters being put off or having difficulties with photo ID on May 4th. Coincidentally, two million is the official figure for the number of electors lacking photo ID in Britain.
The numbers put off or unable to vote rises to one in five (22%) among would-be Conservative voters – in an unexpected backlash for the party that introduced the policy.
Fifteen per cent of Labour backers say the new ID rules put them off or prevented them from voting. The findings are fairly consistent across age groups, with 16% of Generation X voters (aged 42-58) being put off and 18% of Millennials (27-41).
Hanna Lindon, a 38-year-old near Lewes in Sussex, almost missed out on her vote on May 4th as she had not seen any publicity about the new ID rules.
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“I turned up and they sweetly told me I wouldn’t be able to as I didn’t have my ID with me…Luckily I live close to the polling station. I was also very passionate about the vote I was making. If I wasn’t, or it was further away, I might not have gone back,” she told Byline Times. She was able to return at 9:30 pm, just before polls closed.
“I don’t know why they brought it in. It seems a very drastic measure with wide-reaching consequences to deal with a non-issue. Even when people are aware, you’ll still get a lot of people who just forget,” the Green voter said.
She added: “I imagine it will put people off voting or stop them voting. Anything that places barriers in the way of voting has got to be negative. You don’t want it to be difficult.”
The findings come after provisional figures from councils, gathered by former BBC journalist David Cowling, found that around 2,000 would-be voters were turned away for lack of photo ID and didn’t return in this month’s local elections – and that is among a small sample of just 13 councils. An average of 40% of those turned away for lacking the “right” ID in the sample did not return, suggesting they lost their vote.
With 230 councils being elected in England earlier this month, the figures suggest that the numbers turned away nationally could be many times higher. The 1,966 people turned away and not returning in the dozen councils sampled is infinitely more than proven allegations of in-person voter fraud England-wide last year (0).
A separate observation of hundreds of polling stations by the non-profit group Democracy Volunteers found that 1.2% of those attending polling stations were turned away because they lacked the relevant ID, or were judged not to have it. Of those turned away 53% were identified by our observers as being ‘non-white passing’.
Mae Benedict, 48 in Harehills (Leeds), refused to vote because of the new voter ID rules.
She told Byline Times: “I think the introduction of ID is outrageous, and it’s clearly designed to make it harder for poor people to vote. That’s particularly brutal in my area. The fact that for young people the ID is way more restricted than for older people just looks pretty suspicious when you consider the demographics of who votes for who.
“I went with a friend who also wasn’t going to take my ID, and I spoke to several other people who wouldn’t be taking it. I got to the front of the queue and gave my address, my name and then I was asked for ID. When I said I didn’t have any I was told I couldn’t vote and I said I wanted it recorded that I was being turned away.
“My friend read through the list of IDs and said he didn’t have any, then his being turned away was recorded too.”
She added: “Turnout in our ward was 26% – which was actually quite good for local elections in Leeds – but it shows that the problem is that most people don’t vote, rather than most people are secretly voting as many times as possible.”
The polling by Omnisis for Byline Times was based on a representative sample of around 680 people in England who had elections in their area on May 4th, with the polling conducted over the three days to May 12th.
Were you affected by the voter ID legislation in the local elections? Did you witness something that needs highlighting? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com