Politics

New voter ID rules are blocking local elections voters from casting their ballot

Frustrated voters have taking to social media to share reports of being turned back at the polls due to new voter ID laws.

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. 

“If the trend continues in just my constituency over the course of the day, seven or eight people will be turned away,” she said. 

“If you multiply that by the number of constituencies you are looking at thousands of people being disenfranchised.

“It’s abhorrent and it undermines the fabric of our democracy.”

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

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.

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

The address on her ID differs by a single word to the version of the address held by the station. Under the old rules – where she just told the staff her address by name – she never faced any issues.

“I value voting, but it is already a bit of a hassle. If people are disengaged already, having to have an ID might stop them from voting at all,” she said. 

“[The rules] are definitely a friction we could do without.”

Can I still vote if I don’t have an ID?

If you’ve lost or damaged your ID, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote until 5pm today. This means you nominate someone to vote for you. Full details can be found here.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'Get a grip' and act on reality, not prejudice, MP Liam Fox tells his Tory colleagues
Liam Fox
Politics

'Get a grip' and act on reality, not prejudice, MP Liam Fox tells his Tory colleagues

Why the general election could and should be fought on the frontier of poverty
Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner on the first day of the general election campaign
General election 2024

Why the general election could and should be fought on the frontier of poverty

From the NHS to levelling up: Here are all the broken promises after 14 years of Tory rule
General Election 2024

From the NHS to levelling up: Here are all the broken promises after 14 years of Tory rule

No Rwanda flights before election, Sunak admits – as calls for urgent asylum reform grow louder
Rishi Sunak after calling the 4 July general election
General election 2024

No Rwanda flights before election, Sunak admits – as calls for urgent asylum reform grow louder

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know