Thousands of individuals were unable to vote in England’s local elections because they lacked proper identification.
Of these, 16,588 returned with valid identification, while 9,577 did not.
This is a relatively small number of electors, but campaigners warn that this does not account for every affected individual.
Nonetheless, some local governments have begun disclosing the number of rejected electors.
The impact of the requirement will become evident as more data becomes available. Councils do not publish all information collected, including data on electors suspected of forging identification.
It is difficult to calculate the proportion of eligible voters who were denied access to the polls as a result of the ID requirement because councils have recorded data inconsistently.
Some reported denied electors as a percentage of those voting at polling stations on election day. While others reported it as a percentage of those eligible to vote in person or the total electorate.
In general, less than 1% and in many cases less than 0.5% of the total number of registered voters were initially turned away, according to the information gathered to date.
Voter ID trials in 2018 and 2019 found an initial refusal rate of 0.4% of all votes cast.
David Cowling notes that some rejected voters return with ID.
Using evidence from metropolitan borough councils and pilot programs, he estimates that roughly 60 percent of individuals initially refused a ballot return with valid ID, equating to roughly 0.2% of the votes cast.
“That’s arguably 0.2% fewer people than should not be participating. But I don’t see the demise of democracy on the horizon,” he stated.
He adds, however, that there are “imponderables” in the council data, including the fact that people turned away by so-called greeters outside polling stations were not included in the published statistics.
Labour MP Clive Betts, who heads a Commons committee that will hold its hearing on the new rules, stated that official data would not reflect those who remained at home because they lacked identification or were unsure if it would be accepted.
“The number of these individuals may exceed those who were denied entry,” he said.
Even if the number of individuals denied a ballot was in the thousands, he said, it would be “a thousand times greater” than the number of people prosecuted for voter fraud each year.
“One voter is too much”
Dr. Jess Garland, the society’s director of policy and research, stated, “These numbers, while incomplete, confirm what we’ve long feared.”
“One voter disenfranchised is one too many, but these numbers demonstrate that the impact was significantly greater.”
The Electoral Commission will collect data on where greeters were used at polling stations to evaluate their effectiveness.
In addition to council data, it has previously stated that it will also evaluate information from returning officers, electoral observers, and opinion polling to conduct a “balanced assessment” of voter ID.
The government declared the voter ID policy in 2021, stating that it would combat voter fraud and increase voter confidence.
Ministers say a lack of evidence may be hiding the full amount of vote fraud.
Ministers also noted that voter identification has been required in Northern Ireland and many European countries since 2003.
Opposition parties voted against it, arguing that it was superfluous and would discourage marginalized groups’ participation in elections. In April, shadow minister David Lammy stated that, if elected, Labour would eliminate the regulation.
MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was in government when the measure was implemented, recently stated that the Conservatives move to implement voter ID was an attempt at gerrymandering – altering rules to gain electoral advantage.
However, he stated that the measure had “bit them back,” claiming that his party’s vote had suffered because elderly voters. Who are more likely to vote Conservative, were more likely to lack a recognized form of identification.
According to previous government research, older adults are less likely to possess valid identification. The Electoral Commission found the same among the unemployed, council housing renters, and less educated.
2 million voters without ID received free voter registration certificates. In advance of the elections in May, approximately 85,000 individuals, or 4% of the estimated number, applied online.