Skip to content

VOTER SUPPRESSION LATEST: More Revelations of Voters Turned Away for Lacking Photo ID in England’s Local Elections

  • by

Latest updates from Josiah Mortimer and the team as Byline Times reports on the rollout of mandatory voter ID in England

This paper is reporting from half a dozen English counties about a major change to elections as voters are told to bring photo ID for the first time. 

Sign up for our weekly Behind the Headlines email and get a free copy of Byline Times posted to you

Luton Live

Byline Times spoke to Emmanuel Nwogbe (pictured below), who was turned away for not having ID at Luton Town Hall. “In other elections, they [haven’t] asked for ID. Is it the case that most elections are being rigged? No, so why the change?” 

“I had a note on my polling card saying you need ID – but I assumed you could bring your polling card,” he said. He went home to pick up ID and return. 

“It’s not been communicated properly, and it doesn’t send a very good signal,” Nwogbe added. He was also disappointed by the lack of election campaigning. “There’s only one candidate who has canvassed at my door,” the Luton central resident said. 

A poll station official who had to remain anonymous described turnout in Luton as “very slow”: “I would say it’s a lot less [people] than normal.”

But he said that despite major worries beforehand – and the apparent dip in turnout – the ID rollout “hasn’t been a problem” so far. “Most people turn up with a passport or driving licence.” The official had “no idea” why turnout seemed down: “You’ll have to leave that to Prof John Curtice.” 

Abid Aziz, a Liberal Democrat candidate in Luton central – a new seat – said mandatory ID was “difficult because it’s different”. “We’ve spoken to quite a few people who don’t have ID of any sort,” he said, describing turnout as “pretty slow.” 

West Midlands 

Local elections this year are taking place across the West Midlands, but not in Birmingham. 

In the borough of Sandwell, Shane Pearson (pictured below) said he couldn’t understand why voter ID was necessary, Rhi Storer reports. “I hate this voter ID stuff. It’s pointless. Out of millions of votes cast, there were just two convictions between 2010-2018 for personation,” he told Byline Times

Natalie and Alexander Ferguson said they received lots of communication about voter ID – but they added: “There’s clearly an element of disenfranchisement for younger people.”

And resident Lesley Petersen branded mandatory ID “a bit ridiculous,” noting that in Australia they have compulsory voting but not mandatory ID. 

Woking Snapshot

In Woking, northwest Surrey, one voter was turned away from voting in his lunch break from work because he had left his ID at home. Holding his polling card, resident Iblal Hussein said he would have to head home to get his passport and try to vote.  But he added: “It’s very difficult”.

Councillors there said they met residents on the doorstep who did not have the right ID and would not be voting this time. Labour group leader Tahir Aziz he met three people without ID when out canvassing 60 homes. 

“Some elderly people do not have photo ID or passports. One man had lost his wallet and not applied for a new driving licence. Voters from the ethnic minorities might have their visa or passport application with the Home Office and can’t get voter ID,” he said. 

The councillor added: “The whole system can’t be changed for one-off electoral fraud.” 

A teller for the Conservative party said one voter with disabilities had come to the polling station without ID and said he would not bother to come back after making the effort to get there. 

And Liberal Democrat Cllr Adam Kirkby (Horsell ward) said he met one couple where one person had the right ID and the other did not. Neither of them planned to vote. 

He told Byline Times: “I had people telling me yesterday while canvassing they weren’t going to bother because they did not have the ID. One disabled person had applied for the voter authenticity certificate but had not received it. “I don’t think it was an option for them to go into Woking town centre to collect it,” Kirkby added. 

However, officials appeared to have made real efforts to ensure minimal numbers were disenfranchised. One polling station presiding officer there said they worked hard to ensure residents of a homeless hostel in Woking had the right documents to vote.

Other Reports

Richard from Henfield, West Sussex, told one researcher he had issues with officials distrusting his ID: “I went with my driving licence and initially I was told ‘no’ [to voting] by one member at the table. Another scrutinised it so very carefully, almost as if looking for a reason not to allow it. After that [they] asked if I had my polling card. [It] was obstructive.” Polling cards are not an accepted form of identification. 

Other readers have told Byline Times that while ID was not an issue for them, they were disappointed with the limited competitiveness of the local elections. Lisa King from a village near Essex said: “There were no Lib Dem or Green candidates standing where I am. The choice was Conservative, Labour or Independent. [There’s] not much choice and only conservatives put leaflets in the letter box.” 

Ms L. Baker in Luton South said she received “nothing” through the letterbox from candidates in her ward, which was contested only by Labour and the Lib Dems. One voter, Martin, speculated that the Liberal Democrats had an informal pact with the local Conservatives as there were very few seats where both non-Labour parties contested wards.

The Farley ward in Luton had no election as it was completely uncontested except by Labour. Several would-be voters were “livid” in conversations with this paper. 

With thanks for additional reporting from Rhi Storer and Catherine Avery (a pseudonym). 

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

Like my work? Buy me a coffee by clicking here!
Generated by Feedzy