According to a Reuters poll of local authorities, more than 13,000 individuals were refused the right to vote in English local elections this month as a result of the government’s new identity requirement, with those in poorer regions being the most affected.
Voters in England were officially forced to provide picture identification for the first time during the May 4 elections, with the government claiming that it was necessary to fight election fraud.
However, several opposition politicians and activists criticized the change, claiming it was designed to decrease turnout and was disproportionate given Britain’s traditionally low incidence of in-person voting fraud.
Furthermore, Jacob Rees-Mogg – a government minister when the law was passed – said last week that the move had affected elderly voters who traditionally voted for the governing Conservative Party, indicating that it had also hoped for a different outcome.
“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections,” he told the National Conservatism conference.
Reuters collected data from 202 of the 230 authorities in England that held elections, in which the governing Conservative Party suffered heavy losses. The remaining 28 were either still compiling the figures or did not respond to Reuters’ request.
Out of the top 20 councils that turned away voters, 15 were among the most deprived areas in England as measured by the government’s deprivation index, the survey found.
Clive Betts, an opposition Labour Party politician and chair of a parliamentary committee which will look at the new rules, said they were “undermining and undervaluing our democracy.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are encouraged by the roll-out and we are confident the vast majority of voters will have cast their vote successfully”.