Politics

Calls to scrap voter ID requirement as just 85,000 apply for free photo ID by deadline

Hundreds of thousands of Brits have been disenfranchised after the deadline for Voter Authority Certificate applications passed

voter ID, local elections 2023

Just 4 per cent of voters without valid photo ID have applied for the government's free scheme. Image: RachelH_/flickr

Just 85,698 people applied for the government’s new free voter ID before yesterday’s deadline, meaning hundreds of thousands of Brits have effectively lost the right to vote in May’s elections.

Despite a spike in the last two days for applications for the new voter authority certificate (VAC), this represents a mere 4.28 per cent of the estimated two million without recognisable photo ID, leading to calls for the voter ID requirements to be ditched.

Next week’s local elections, taking place on May 4, will be the first in England where photo ID is required at the polling station.

Not every council will be holding elections on May 4, meaning a proportion of the two million will have more time to obtain photo ID. But hundreds of thousands have now been effectively disenfranchised by the government’s new voter ID rules.

Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy and a former Lib Dem MP, told The Big Issue: “Today’s figures confirm what we have been warning for months – that the government’s new voter ID requirements are a clear and present danger to democracy in our country.  

“The government’s much vaunted voter authority certificate scheme is an absolute failure with only around 85,000 applications. Never before will so many people be at risk of being turned away from casting their vote, either because they don’t have the right form of ID, or they simply forget to take it with them. 

“With only just over a week to go before the elections, we urge the government to scrap these dangerous and damaging requirements.” 

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The measures were a manifesto commitment from the Conservative party, introduced to “strengthen the integrity of the electoral process”.

The young and the old were also least likely to submit applications for VACs. Just 5,226 under-25s applied, and just 2,772 over-75s.

Ahead of the election, campaign groups told The Big Issue that the new measures will hit marginalised groups hard.

Trans people, the elderly, Muslim women, and disabled people could all be worst affected, they warned.

But there are indications that voters don’t even know they need to bring ID to the polling station, with one in four Brits unaware of the new requirement.

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