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Bouncers at the Ballot Box: Security Turned Away Voters In What Campaigners say is ‘Another Nail in the Coffin of Photo Voter ID’ 

Three people of colour were turned away from a polling station in Sheffield after a security guard checked their IDs on the door

A polling station in Ashford, Kent, in May 2023. Photo: PAL News / Alamy
Voters were required to provide ID to vote at polling stations during the local elections on May 2. Photo: PAL News / Alamy

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Voters were turned away from a polling station in Sheffield last week after a security guard began checking voter ID on the door, Byline Times can reveal.

A security guard who believed he was doing his job properly, examined IDs on the door of a polling station in Sheffield on May 2 and turned away three people of colour who did not have voter identification. The council did not ask security to check IDs as part of their job.

The security guard told Byline Times that voter ID requirements had been all over the news and argued voters “had no excuse, it’s the law.”

A spokesperson for Sheffield City Council told Byline Times the local authority has used security officers at busy polling stations and ones where queues form since 2021.

The guards at twenty polling stations were outsourced to Sierra 1 Security Stewarding, who – it appears – had not informed their employees exactly what their role was. One security guard was on shift for two hours, from 7am, before a manager drove past with printed instructions for him.

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Discrepancies between married names and maiden names on IDs caused problems for some voters, but not others on Thursday – suggesting the rules were not applied consistently

Sierra 1 Security Stewarding said they asked employees to report to the Presiding Officer when they arrived at stations for instructions. A manager delivered written instructions to all employees before 10:30am, but couldn’t get to everyone before polls opened.

Sierra 1 Security Stewarding said their staff were told to ask voters if they had any ID and if they didn’t, direct people to the volunteers in the polling stations. Security had “no right” to check people’s IDs and were not asked to do that, the company said.

After a complaint, security staff were reminded of their role at polling stations and the guard was asked to refrain from checking ID.

Sheffield City Council said the ID entrance checks were “believed to have been an isolated incident and was swiftly resolved”. The voters turned away are understood to have returned later with their ID.


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Voters say they struggled to prove their identities as polling stations enforced England’s draconian photo ID rules

Councillor Ibby Ullah, Labour Councillor for Nether Edge and Sharrow, told Byline Times: “In my opinion, only trained polling station staff should verify voter IDs, not untrained security staff. I hope such incidents are not repeated in future elections, as voting is a fundamental right for everyone.”

Tom Brake, director of campaign group Unlock Democracy, said: “The latest story revealed by Byline Times is another nail in the coffin of photo voter ID.  Security guards must have no role in checking whether people have photo voter ID. Photo voter ID is unnecessary, costly and discriminatory.  Scrapping it will not only increase voter turnout but also save councils the cost of hiring private security firms to police our democracy.”

Byline Times spoke to dozens of voters last week who had problems securing their right to vote on the day.

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One ex-Army MP branded the situation “ludicrous” while even Conservatives seemed to despair

Several reported incidents highlighted confusion, frustration, and alleged voter suppression due to the need for strict – and varyingly enforced – forms of identification.

This included an army veteran being turned away, despite carrying an official MOD issued veterans card, a voter from Leeds being turned away because a volunteer did not recognise him from his ID photo due to his current beard, and a Telegraph columnist’s wife being told to return with her Marriage Certificate before she could vote. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who backed the initiative – was also turned away after failing to provide valid ID.

Additional reporting by Josiah Mortimer. 

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