Thousands of voters turned away from polling stations in mandatory ID trials

By agency reporter
May 5, 2018

Thousands of people were told they could not vote because of “draconian” ID requirements in five local election areas on 3 May 2018, according to analysis by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). 

Based on figures released by electoral observers at ID trial area polling stations, the ERS estimate 3,981 people were denied a ballot paper across the five pilot areas (1.67 per cent of those who tried to vote)

Voter ID trials took place in Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon in what the campaigners have branded a “dark day for politics.”

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Britain prides itself on being a leading democracy – but it is a dark day for politics when thousands of blameless people turn out to vote only to be refused.

“Our estimates, based on evidence gathered by electoral observers, reveal the shocking scale of the problem. These trials have been shown up to be the chaotic, undemocratic mess many predicted.

“These findings are exactly what many feared: that this draconian measure would result in blameless individuals being disenfranchised.

“And personal accounts which have emerged are equally disturbing. There have been people who have voted their entire lives but were denied that right yesterday because of these ill-thought-out trials.

“For months we have been warning about the possible negative impacts of these trials and highlighting that there was no justification for the new requirements to be introduced. It is vital moving forward that these draconian trials are not a fait accompli for a national roll-out.”

The Democracy Volunteers report, on which the ERS analysis was based, does not take into account whether voters came back with the correct ID having initially been turned away.

It is also impossible to know how many people were put off from entering a polling station altogether because of the new ID requirements.

In advance of Thursday, the ERS had published an extensive analysis which looked at international evidence of the potentially negative impact on disadvantaged groups. 

The campaigners had also questioned the evidence base on which the trials were based. Figures from the Electoral Commission show there were just 28 allegations of impersonation in 2017 out of nearly 45 million votes in 2017 – or one case for every 1.6 million votes cast. Only one of these allegations resulted in a conviction.

Senior officials in trials areas expressed their concerns about the trials, while the government was criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for pushing misleading figures to support the need for the pilots. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/25793)

* Read the Democracy Volunteers report here

* Electoral Reform Society https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

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