'Countless' people being turned away from voting booths for having incorrect ID
Campaigners have reported ‘countless examples’ of would-be voters being turned away from polling stations on the first elections where photo identification is mandatory.
The Electoral Reform Society, which has strongly opposed the introduction, urged ministers to rethink the new law as voters went to the polls in the local elections in England on Thursday.
Earlier this week an investigation reported that some councils are rejecting up to 15 per cent of applications for the new voter authority certificate.
However, the Association of Electoral Administrators said the polls were ‘running as smoothly as usual’.
The current council and mayoral elections are the first time in England that ID has been mandatory to cast a vote.
James Toft, 41, was unable to vote in Chesterfield this morning 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.’
Mr Toft believes the requirement to bring photo ID to the polling booth could be detrimental to people voting, and said: ‘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)?’
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 her address ‘wasn’t down right on their system’.
She said: ‘I’ve lived there six years and never had an issue.’
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.’
Labour is among those criticising the Government’s move, warning that it could lock millions out of voting.
Jess Garland, the Electoral Reform Society’s director of policy and research, said: ‘We’re already seeing countless examples of people being denied their right to vote due to these new laws.
‘From people caught out by having the wrong type of photo ID to others turned away for not looking enough like their photo.
‘One voter turned away is one voter too many. The Government must take lessons from the problems we’re seeing today at polling stations across the country and face up to the fact that these new rules damage our elections more than they protect them.’
Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said she had been told of issues in her constituency.
‘We’ve had reports by our tellers of people being turned away at polling stations for lack of correct ID,’ she said.
‘Across the country I’m worried this will be significant numbers and far more than the exactly 0 people found guilty of fraud last year.’
The Electoral Commission, which was given £5.6 million to carry out a public awareness campaign, has tasked councils with recording how many would-be voters are turned away.
No record will be made if greeters deployed outside polling stations turn people away.
The watchdog plans to publish its initial findings into how the ID mandate affected voting in the coming weeks.
The Government has estimated that around 4% of Britain’s population – or two million people – were unlikely to have a valid form of photo ID to vote.
Passports, driving licences and blue badges are among the IDs permitted, as are the free certificates that could be applied for ahead of the vote.
Photo ID will be required in England during future general elections under the policy.
On Thursday, more than 8,000 council seats were being contested across 230 local authorities, while mayors were being selected in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.
No votes were taking place in London and Birmingham, along with other areas including Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
Polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.
Around a quarter of the votes are expected to be counted overnight, with the rest counted during the day on Friday.
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