“Polling clerks are more likely to fail to compare a photo ID to the person presenting that document if the person is of a different ethnicity”.
Voter ID rules which were applied for the first time in local elections in May this year, led to racial and disability discrimination, according to a damning new report.
The report, due to be published today by the all-party parliamentary group on democracy and the constitution, found that ‘the current voter-ID system is, as it stands, a ‘poisoned cure’ in that it disenfranchises more electors than it protects.’ The report was co-written by Sir Robert Buckland, who was justice minister in 2021 when the bill to introduce the rules was first launched in parliament.
The Guardian which has seen an advanced copy of the report, reported: “The authors found that “polling clerks are more likely to fail to compare a photo ID to the person presenting that document if the person is of a different ethnicity”.
“They also highlighted the case of Andrea Barratt, who is immunocompromised and was blocked from entering a polling booth after refusing to remove her mask for an identification check.
“The report says: “Their decision in that instance was … clearly discriminatory (and potentially unlawful) because they denied Andrea Barratt the right to cast a ballot purely on the basis of circumstances which arose as a direct result of a disability.”
Campaign groups such as the Electoral Reform Society had been warning for some time that the requirement for photo ID at elections was discriminatory, and would have an overall negative impact.
Millions of people were found to lack the strictest forms of photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence. Government-commissioned research found that 2% of people don’t have any form of photo ID, while the government also limited the types of identification that could be accepted, and included, for example, older people’s travel passes, but not those of younger voters.
A study published by the Electoral Commission earlier this year found at least 14,000 people had been denied a vote because they lacked the correct form of ID.
The APPG report warns that if the discriminatory impact of the rules were repeated at a general election, it could help swing the result of up to 16 constituencies.
It also says that the rules are too reliant on decisions made by polling clerks and returning agents, which can be arbitrary and are not open to appeal.
Among the changes called for by the report’s authors are for a broader range of documents to be included in the list of accepted forms of identification.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward