Millions at risk of not being able to vote in May’s local elections due to voter ID laws

Just 10,000 people, (0.5%) of the two million people in the UK who lack the correct forms of ID have applied for a government-issued voter ID since the scheme opened.

Voting Ballot Box

Millions of voters are at risk of not being able to vote in the upcoming May local elections, due to government plans to enforce photo ID checks at polling stations.

Among those particularly affected will be ethnic minority voters as well as younger voters and poorer voters of all ages.

From this May, every voter in England will have to show polling station staff one of around a dozen forms of ID or be refused the right to vote. Nearly two million people in the UK lack appropriate photo ID and could have to apply for a new government-approved identification card.

The government claims that it is bringing in voter ID measures in a bid to combat voter  impersonation and safeguard the integrity of UK elections. This despite the fact that the latest tracker of public opinion on the issue, found that 90 percent believe that voting at the polling station is safe, according to the Electoral Commission. In 2019, the last general elections year, there were only 33 allegations of impersonation at the polling station, out of over 58 million votes cast.

With less than 90 days to go before the local elections, polling by Omnisis for Byline Times found that 60% of voters do not know they will be unable to vote in England’s May 4 elections if they don’t have a ‘valid’ form of photo ID.

The latest data shows that just 10,000 people, (0.5%) of the two million people in the UK who lack the correct forms of ID have applied for a government-issued voter ID since the scheme opened.

When it comes to the forms of ID that are considered acceptable, younger voters are at a particular disadvantage. Six of the Government-accepted IDs are specifically targeted at older people, while almost none are aimed at younger people, leading to accusations that the government is engaged in ‘legalised voter suppression’.

Meanwhile, those from ethnic minority communities are at particular risk of not being able to vote. According to 2021 census data, while three-quarters of those identifying as “White British” hold a full driving license, one of the forms of acceptable IDs, 38% of South Asian people and 48% of Black people do not.

Nannette Youssef, Policy Officer from The Runnymede Trust told ITV: “We have this huge Democratic deficit, which is adversely affecting ethnic minority people across the UK.

“Evidence from the United States suggests that when photographic ID is implemented at the ballot, that ethnic minority people are less likely to turn out and vote.

“The government should be doing more to encourage these communities to be part of the democratic process, not introducing policies which are likely to exclude them.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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