Polling station staff check voters photo identification before they vote. Image: Geoffrey Swaine/Shutterstock
New ID rules are blocking would-be voters at May’s local elections from casting their ballot as potentially thousands could be denied the chance to participate in democracy because of the new laws.
Voters in England must show photo ID before they are allowed to issue a ballot at today’s council elections – the first time English voters have been required to do so.
According to dozens of social media users, many people have fallen foul of the new restrictions.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran told The Big Issue several people in her constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon had already been turned away by lunch time, meaning thousands across the country could be denied over the course of the day, she said.
“It’s abhorrent and it undermines the fabric of our democracy,” she added.
There were just 33 allegations of voter fraud at the last general election, and only one conviction. Boris Johnson introduced the law requiring voters to bring ID to the polling station in 2022.
Dozens of social media users shared stories of disenfranchisement online.
“Cried at the polling station this morning as the old lady in front of me, who had struggled to walk there, was turned away,” wrote Tor Udall. “She had photo ID but not the right version.”
Another user reported 15 people turned away at a single polling station.
“This is going to be horrendous,” Gail wrote.
Twitter user Jamie Hall was turned away after being told that a Driver Qualification card was not an acceptable form of ID.
Some voters are confused over what counts as valid identification. At a polling station in Hyde Park, Leeds, Molly – who did not want her last name used – saw a woman denied entry to a station.
“She found a picture of her driving license which they refused and said it had to be physical ID,” she said.
“She left but I don’t know if she was going to come back.”
According to polling for the Mirror, up to a quarter of voters don’t know about the ID requirement. Oliver White saw a man who “did not know he needed ID” turned away in Caversham Ward, Reading.
The government has claimed that the new rules crack down on voter impersonation, despite there being just 33 allegations at the 2019 election – equivalent to 0.000057 percent of votes.
But other parties warn that the rules could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said that her tellers in her constituency had reported four rejections by midday.
Councillor David Cox, a Liberal Democrat in Teignmouth in Devon, said that he had witnessed two people turned away at the polling station he was telling at.
Research commissioned by the government found nine per cent of people do not have “in-date and recognisable” photo ID. Just 85,698 people applied to the government’s free voter ID scheme before last week’s deadline.
The knock-backs are the tip of the iceberg, with many more people likely to not attend the ballot box at all.
The difficulty “bodes poorly” for the general election expected by the end of 2024, said Gill, an elector who has voted at the same polling station in East Riding for 15 years.
Gill – who spoke to The Big Issue on the condition that her last name would not be used – was blocked from voting this morning due to a “problem with her ID.”
“It turns out the address on my photo ID and voting card didn’t tally with the niche version of my address that the polling station has,” she said.
If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.