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Latest 20 July 2023

NEW: Scale of election greeters enforcing voter ID at last May’s elections revealed

PA Images / Alamy

An investigation by Good Law Project can reveal for the first time the number of greeters deployed at last May’s local elections to help enforce the government’s voter ID rules – and the possible under-reporting of those turned away because they lacked the correct ID.

Last May, voters in England headed to the polling booths to elect new councillors. Shortly after the polls closed, we sent a freedom of information request to all 230 English councils that had elections and asked them to provide data on the impact caused by the controversial ID rules.

We have now received substantive responses from two thirds of the councils.

Here is what we found:

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  • 99 councils confirmed they positioned greeters outside polling stations on the day to check IDs and turn people away without the correct identification.
  • Only 3 out of 99 local authorities recorded the number of people turned away by its greeters.
  • Epsom & Ewell Borough Council said they “recorded 59 people who turned up without ID” and were initially turned away by greeters outside. However, figures requested by the Electoral Commission only captured the 23 people who were turned away once inside the polling station.
  • Remarkably, neither the government nor the Electoral Commission required councils to record the number of people turned away by greeters outside polling stations.
  • This means that only those turned away once inside the polling station were recorded by the local authority. People blocked from voting by the greeters positioned outside were not included in the official figures reported to the Electoral Commission.
  • So, the true number of people denied a vote is likely to exceed the 14,000 figure declared by the regulator. 

You can check if your local authority used election greeters here.

The Electoral Commission is aware of the problem created by greeters and said last month that improvements need to be made on the “appropriate role of greeters” along with further “work to improve the collection of data at polling stations for future elections”

Our findings suggest that the use of election greeters could potentially compound the negative impact that voter ID rules have had on marginalised groups of people in the UK.

However, returning officers overseeing this week’s three by-elections – including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat – have escaped the need to provide extra scrutiny. 

With the Electoral Commission not enforcing any new data collection at these by-elections, the amount of people being turned away by greeters and subsequently denied a vote will remain a mystery.

The regulator insists:

“As was the case at the May elections, it will not be possible to collect data on the number of people turned away by greeters.” 

We’re planning to bring forward a legal challenge ahead of the next General Election to ensure that the new requirements for photo ID don’t disenfranchise people and deprive them of their democratic rights.

If you are interested in supporting this campaign, you can do so here.