Four-thousand people were denied the chance to vote in the five areas trialling voter ID pilot schemes, the Electoral Reform Society has estimated.
However, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the body behind the pilot, said that figure seemed “incredibly high” and insisted the pilots had gone “smoothly” and without any major issues.
AEA chief Peter Stanyon said while there had been some small errors locally he was not aware of “any fundamental administrative issues with confusion”.
Responding to the ERS estimates, Mr Stanyon said he would be “amazed” if they turned out to be accurate. “They do seem incredibly high. As an organisation we have received no feedback that would support that,” he said.
Voters in Bromley LBC, Woking and Gosport BCs were asked to provide ID at the polling station on Thursday, while voters in Swindon and Watford BCs only needed produce a polling card as part of the pilot scheme. There were some reports of people being turned away in Bromley and Swindon yesterday as they did not have the required paperwork to vote.
Mr Stanyon said: “We don’t know if there’s been any positive or negative impact on the vote, it’s too early to say. We’ve still got three counts going on in pilot areas, but in Swindon the turnout was up. There are so many factors that have affected that though and until the evaluation has been done it would be foolish to jump to any conclusions.”
Noting that he could not comment on the pilot scheme itself until after an evaluation is published, Mr Stanyon extended his congratulations to local polling administrators for successfully delivering election results under pressure. The electoral commission is statutorily required to publish an evaluation within three months.
The chief executive’s comments come as the leader of the opposition Labour group on Gloucestershire CC described the voter ID scheme as a “calculated effort to disenfranchise millions” of voters.
Lesley Williams (Lab) said: “This trial goes hand-in-hand with the ‘hostile environment’ policy that this government has perpetuated, ensuring that our fellow citizens are shut out of public life.”
Mr Stanyon said the AEA would work with the government to make sure that any policy change “works for the elector and the administration”.
“We have to make sure we work with the government to make sure that unnecessary barriers [to voting] are not left in place from a policy perspective,” Mr Stanyon said.
The Electoral Reform Society have estimated 3,981 people were denied a ballot paper across the five pilot areas (1.67% of those who tried to vote), based on a report by Democracy Volunteers. ERS chief executive Darren Hughes said: “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.”
He added it is “vital moving forward that these draconian trials are not a fait accompli for a national rollout”.
While final turnout figures for the five pilot areas had yet to be confirmed the Society for Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers said reports are that they have been between around 30-35% on average.
Dave Smith, Solace spokesman for elections and democratic renewal, said: “Solace would like to congratulate Returning Officers and election teams across the country on successfully running another set of smooth and efficient elections this year, thanks to their detailed planning and preparation of council staff throughout the year.
“With voter ID pilots taking place in five areas this year, there have been additional challenges, with heightened public scrutiny of local elections more widely. Solace has consistently expressed concern that ID checks risk making it difficult for electors to exercise their right to vote in a context where turnout at elections is falling and no evidence that voter fraud is widespread.
“We will be following up with the Cabinet Office on the findings and evaluation of the pilots to ensure that fairness and accessibility remain at the heart of our democratic system.
“Against the backdrop of decreasing resources and growing demands every year, councils provide the backbone of a fair and robust electoral process that delivers clear and confident results. A huge well done and thank you to all those individuals who have played a role.”
by Democracy Volunteers