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Latest 13 September 2023

Government brushes aside another damning report on voter ID

Stephen Frost / Alamy Stock Photo

The Electoral Commission says that voter ID rules will impact people with lower incomes, with disabilities and from minority ethnic backgrounds. But the Government says its reforms are ‘very encouraging’.

The Electoral Commission has found that rules requiring voters to present ID are having a disproportionate impact on marginalised groups. But Ministers still insist it is “very encouraging” that most people “adapted well to the rollout”.

While 4% of people who did not vote in May’s local elections said it was because of voter ID, the regulator said that the requirement is “likely to have a larger impact” at the next General Election, which could see hundreds of thousands turned away from polling stations.

The report found that people with lower incomes, with disabilities and from minority ethnic backgrounds “faced greater problems” with the requirements. It also noted specific concerns from representatives of LGBTQ+ communities, who reported that LGBTQ+ people either voted by post to avoid being asked for ID at the polling station, or simply stayed away.

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With a General Election due within the next 18 months, the Electoral Commission calls for changes to be made “at the earliest opportunity”, including expanding the current list of acceptable ID. But for Ian Browne, Legal Manager at Good Law Project, these recommendations do not go far enough.

“It has always been clear that voter ID is a crude gerrymandering strategy from the Government,” Browne said. “We shouldn’t be beating around the bush on this issue when our democracy is being eroded in front of our eyes. It’s time to scrap voter ID once and for all”.

This is the second report in a week that has exposed deep problems with the Government’s voter ID rules. On Monday, a cross-party group of MPs called the policy a “poisoned cure” that “disenfranchises more electors than it protects”, “creates a real risk of injustice and potential discrimination” and “lacks the flexibility necessary to avoid injustices”.

In its response to the Electoral Commission report, the Government says that it is looking for “any areas for improvement in the future”, but fails to engage directly with any of the regulator’s concerns.

Since November 2022, we have been sounding the alarm that this policy could see young people and marginalised groups denied their right to vote. And in July, we revealed that the vast majority of local authorities made no attempt to record the number of voters turned away outside polling stations, which means it’s likely that many more people were denied a vote than the current estimate of 14,000.

We are now gathering evidence for a legal challenge so that, at the next General Election, no-one is denied their right to vote.

But we can only do this with your help. Any donation, whether big or small, will help us fight for an open and inclusive democracy.