Hundreds turned away from polling stations under government voter ID scheme, figures reveal

Conservatives accused of ‘attempt to rig the result of future elections by voter suppression’

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 14 May 2019 09:13 BST
Voter ID plan is 'ineffective' and could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, report finds

The government has been told to ditch its controversial voter ID policy after new analysis found that it had stopped 800 people voting in local elections earlier this month.

A total of 819 people were turned away from polling stations because they did not have formal identification and did not return, according to a study by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC).

The policy of asking voters to show ID is being trialled in 10 areas of the country, despite opposition from charities, campaigners and opposition parties.

The new figures prompted Labour to call for the policy to be “abandoned immediately” and claims ministers were attempting to “rig the result of future elections”

In the eight areas that have released data for the most recent elections, an average of 102 people per area were denied a vote – significantly more than the average of 70 in last year’s trial.

Moves to force voters to show ID when they vote have been widely criticised, with campaigners pointing out that there were just eight allegations of someone trying to impersonate another voter in the UK last year.

Charities including Age UK and Liberty have joined forces with groups such as the Electoral Reform Society to demand that the government stop the “dangerous and undemocratic” policy.

The LGC analysis suggests that the number of people turned away could have influenced the election result in some areas. In Mid Sussex, 78 people were denied a vote and there were three cases in which a candidate won by less than 25 votes.

Labour said the figures proved that the voter ID trial should be “abandoned immediately” and accused the government of “voter suppression”.

Cat Smith, the shadow minister for voter engagement, said: “As we feared, legitimate and honest voters have been denied their right to vote because of these undemocratic and unpopular pilot schemes.

“Time and time again Labour has warned that voter ID will make it harder for people to vote but the Conservatives have pushed on with their blatant attempt to rig the result of future elections by voter suppression.

“After another round of shambolic pilot schemes, it’s clear that voter ID has no place in our democracy and should be abandoned immediately.”

It comes a year after voters expressed anger at being turned away from polling stations during the first trial.

Responding to the latest figures, Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “These initial figures from the LGC pose a stark warning about the government’s undemocratic push for mandatory voter ID. It is clear that, once again, many people have been denied their say – indeed, many more than there were allegations of personation fraud in the whole of the UK last year.

“This ‘show your papers’ policy presents an unprecedented risk to democratic access and equality. Possession of ID is not universal – with millions of people lacking the required forms of identification. If rolled out nationwide, mandatory voter ID could see tens of thousands of legitimate voters made voiceless.

“Trust in our democratic system is vital – which is why ministerial scaremongering about fraud is especially dangerous. Ministers must now focus on combatting the real threats to our democracy – rather than suppressing voters’ rights.”

But a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Voters deserve to have confidence that our elections are secure and protected from electoral fraud - which is an unacceptable crime.

"Showing ID to vote is a reasonable way to stop this and is something people already do every day, when they pick up a parcel at the Post Office, claim their benefits, or take out a library book.

"Both last year’s pilots and the decades of experience of Northern Ireland - including at these local elections - show that voter ID does not have an adverse effect on election turnout or participation"

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