Large numbers of people could be disenfranchised if voter ID is rolled out nationally, the Electoral Reform Society has warned as 10 councils prepare to trial the policy in this week’s local elections.
Voters in Broxtowe BC, Derby City Council and Craven, North Kesteven and Braintree DCs voters will have to present either one piece of photo ID or two pieces of non-photo while in Watford BC and Mid-Sussex and North West Leicestershire DCs, voters will have to take along their poll card or present photo ID. In Pendle and Woking BCs, only photo ID will be accepted.
In all these areas, voters who do not have any of the required types of identification will be able to apply for a local ‘certificate of identity’. But the society claims this can be “burdensome” to acquire and represents another barrier to voting.
Ribble Valley BC and East Staffordshire BC also signed up to the scheme, but later dropped out amid concerns over resources and voters being excluded.
In last year’s voter ID trials, around 350 people were turned away and didn’t return, which the society said raised fears the policy will disenfranchise large numbers if rolled out nationally.
Earlier this month, Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith admitted to MPs that if acceptable ID is limited to passports or driver’s licences, the number of people who would not be able to vote could rise to 11m.
In a new briefing the society said personation fraud at the polling station accounted for just eight of the 266 criminal allegations relating to local elections in 2018 and investigated by police. Of these no further action was taken in seven instances and one was locally resolved.
The government estimates that rolling out voter ID nationally could cost up to £20m per general election, and the ERS is calling on the government to instead invest in improving democratic engagement and modernising “dangerously outdated” campaign rules.