Around 14,000 people were not able to vote in this year’s local elections because they failed to produce the right photo ID, the Electoral Commission has revealed.
Under new rules brought in by the government, voters must now show an accepted form of photo identification before they are allowed a ballot paper.
New data from the vote on 4 May shows that 0.25% of people (approximately 14,000) who went to a polling station were unable to vote – either because they had no ID with them, or the wrong type.
Accepted forms of ID include passports, driving licences and blue badges – or voters can apply for a free certificate by post ahead of polling day.
The new data also suggested that “disabled people and those who are unemployed were more likely than other groups to give a reason related to ID for not voting”.
Last month’s vote was the first time the new rules were tested. They will also be used at the next general election – tipped for 2024. The Electoral Commission, which is an independent body, said the figures on people being turned away were “concerning”.
Craig Westwood, director of communications at the commission, said the “majority of voters” were able to vote on 4 May.
But he added: “Some people were prevented from voting in polling stations due to the requirement, and significantly more did not attempt to because they lacked the required ID.”
Mr Westwood says the commission “doesn’t want to see a single voter lose the opportunity to vote” and more work will be done to improve the situation ahead of a full report in September.
There have been widespread concerns about the impact of the new rules on turnout ever since they were announced
In May, former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg MP claimed they were an attempt by the Conservatives to “gerrymander” the electoral system and reduce voting among groups who traditionally align themselves to other parties.
Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference in May, he said: “Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.
“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
The Electoral Commission said figures showed a “very high awareness” of the new rules on voter ID – and that more than half who arrived at polling stations knew about the free certificates.
Data shows almost 90,000 people applied for them and 81,033 were issued. But only 25,000 were used on the day.
‘Chilling effect on democracy’
Responding to the data, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said voter ID rules are having a “chilling effect on democracy”, with indications minority groups are being disproportionately affected “particularly alarming”.
“Jacob Rees-Mogg’s admission that this shabby scheme was designed to rig the rules to lock voters out revealed the cold truth behind it,” she said in a statement.
The Liberal Democrats’ local government spokesperson, Helen Morgan, described it as an “outrage”.
“It looks like a transparent attempt at voter suppression by Conservative ministers who are desperate to stop people from holding them to account by any means possible,” she said.
The SNP described it as a “damaging threat to democracy in the UK”.