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Around ten million eligible voters do not know that they will need photo ID in order to vote in the upcoming general election, according to an exclusive new poll for Byline Times.
The poll, conducted this week by pollsters We Think found that 22% of UK voters are still not aware that they will need to carry a form of photographic ID.
This figure has risen by just one per cent since last April when We Think found that just 21% of voters were aware of the new requirements.
The findings come after Rishi Sunak’s Government brought in a new law forcing voters to carry one of a limited number of approved IDs in order to vote.
The legislation was rushed through despite almost no evidence of in-person voting fraud in the UK.
At the last general election in 2019 there was just one conviction for impersonation at a polling booth.
Last year the former Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg admitted that the introduction of mandatory voter ID was an attempt to “gerrymander” future elections for the Conservative Party.
The former Brexit Minister, who was part of Boris Johnson’s Government that introduced plans to force voters to present photo ID at polling stations, told the National Conservatism Conference in London that the plans were a “clever scheme” by his party to swing voters in their favour.
The UK’s elections watchdog has urged the Government to reform the policy.
The Chair of the Electoral Commission, John Pullinger, warned just this week that the rules risked disenfranchising certain groups of voters.
“The photo ID requirement is clearly proving more of a barrier to some people than others”, he said.
However, Downing Street has repeatedly refused to implement recommendations by the Commission to increase the forms of IDs accepted at polling station.
Under current rules some IDs, such as senior bus passes, are accepted at polling stations, while others such as young people’s bus passes are not.
A Government spokesperson insisted this week that it was vital for “security” for these forms of ID to be excluded.
However, responding to this rejection of their proposals for other forms of ID to be accepted, the Electoral Commission’s chair told the FT that: “I think readers will need to draw their own judgment about that”.
This discrepancy between the forms of accepted ID may have a significant impact at the general election, according to our poll.
According to the survey younger voters are much less likely to know about the ID requirements than older voters. Although one in three (33%) voters under 40 say they are not aware of the ID requirements, a huge 97% of those aged over 75 say that they are.
Muzzling the Watchdog
The findings come in the same week that the Government was accused of trying to hobble the UK’s elections watchdog.
As this paper reported, the Government’s new ‘Strategy and Policy statement’ for the Commission places great emphasis that the commission should focus on the limited cases of voter fraud, rather than regulations of donations.
It also emphasises the need to sign up voters currently living abroad, rather than on enfranchising the millions of voters who currently do not take part in elections within the UK.
This strategy has led to allegations from democracy campaigners that the Government is threatening the independence of the watchdog.
Tom Brake, Director of Unlock Democracy, told this paper in December: “The Government is at sixes and sevens on this. It can’t on the one hand claim ‘it is vital for the health of democracy that the UK have an independent regulator’ whilst at the same time writing its Strategy and Policy Statement, destroying its independence.”