Voter ID is 'a load of rubbish': Frustrated voters turned away from local elections for not having right documents

4 May 2023, 22:43 | Updated: 4 May 2023, 23:59

Voters had to bring ID to cast their vote for the first time today
Voters had to bring ID to cast their vote for the first time today. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Disappointed voters have been turned away from polling stations for not bringing the right documentation, after controversial new voter ID requirements came in for the first time at the local elections on Thursday.

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James Toft, 41, was unable to vote in the local elections in Chesterfield as he had forgotten his photo ID. The support worker said he "left in a bit of a huff" because work commitments meant he could not return later in the day with ID.

Although he said the refusal was "partly his fault," he added: "The ID requirement is silly."

Valid IDs for voters include a driving licence or passport issued by the UK, any EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands, as well as several other kinds of official documents.

If voters don't have any of the right identification, they can apply for a free 'voter authority certificate'.

Voters in Brentwood in Essex show their ID on Thursday
Voters in Brentwood in Essex show their ID on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

Groups like the Electoral Reform Campaign have raised fears that the new rules could disadvantage already marginalised people.

Voters who don't have money to go on holiday don't have passports, and if they can't drive they are unlikely to have driving licences, campaigners argue.

But the Government and supporters say it will tighten up rules around voting to stop potential fraud from taking place.

Mr Toft agreed that the requirement to bring photo ID to the polling booth could be detrimental to people voting.

Some groups have objected to the new rules, arguing that they may prevent disadvantaged people from voting
Some groups have objected to the new rules, arguing that they may prevent disadvantaged people from voting. Picture: Alamy

He told the PA news agency: "They’ll take a look at what you need to do and just not bother voting, especially the younger ones, what about the less well off who can’t afford a passport or other forms (of identification)?"

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Gillian Long, 42, said ID requirements are "a load of rubbish" after she was stopped from voting by an administration error between her ID and the registration system in East Riding, Yorkshire.

Ms Long said that her address "wasn’t down right on their system."

She said: "I’ve lived there six years and never had an issue."

Voters had their ID documents checked before entering the polling station
Voters had their ID documents checked before entering the polling station. Picture: Alamy

Ms Long, who works as a bespoke tailor, added that she was told to ring the council, but when she spoke to another woman at the polling station, she was eventually allowed to vote.

She said: "Luckily I was quite determined to vote, so I decided to question it.

"I called my other half to warn him before he goes to vote this evening that our address is wrong, and he said he’s not going to bother voting.”

Ms Long said: “If you want people to vote, you should make it as easy as possible, and they’ve added a barrier.”

The Electoral Commission, which regulates elections, said that Thursday's poll was well-run, but admitted that some people were unable to vote because of the new ID rule.

The Commission said it was exploring the full impact of the new requirements.

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A spokesman said: “These were the first set of polls to take place since the voter ID requirement came into force.

"Our initial assessment is that overall, the elections were well run. Across the country, votes were cast throughout the day and in line with the law.

"This is in large part thanks to the dedication of electoral administrators, who have worked hard to prepare for today and for the implementation of this new measure.

Voter ID requirements were heavily advertised beforehand
Voter ID requirements were heavily advertised beforehand. Picture: Getty

"Confidence in the overall picture, however, should not overlook other impacts which can only be revealed through detailed data collection and analysis over the coming weeks.

"We already know from our research that the ID requirement posed a greater challenge for some groups in society, and that some people were regrettably unable to vote today as a result."

Tom Brake of Unlock Democracy, who is leading a coalition of groups including the Electoral Reform Society, Fair Vote UK and open Britain against the imposition of Voter ID, said: “Today has been a dark day for British democracy.

" Reports from all over the country confirm our very worst fears of the impact of the disastrous policy which has been made worse by the shambolic way it has been introduced.

"One voter turned away is one too many, but early estimates point to many thousands of people being turned away and denied their right to vote.”

As well as passports and driving licences, a PASS card, Blue Badge, biometric residence permit, a Defence identity card, an identity card issued by the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, a Northern Ireland Electoral Identity Card, a Voter Authority Certificate and an Anonymous Elector's Document are also all valid.

Bus passes, Oyster 60+ cards, Freedom Passes and other travel cards issued in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also valid.

If you don't have photo ID as set out above, you can get one via the Government website, where a new service has launched.

You can apply to get a Voter Authority Certificate on the Government's website.

Currently, general elections will not require photo ID.

However, by-elections for the UK Parliament will require it.