9 May 2023

Impact of voter ID revealed as only 1 in 5 vote in Hull

The new voter ID requirements have left a number of the public unable to vote in the local elections.

The dust is settling on Thursday’s local elections, and most votes have now been counted. But one of the big stories of last week is not the results of the vote, but about the process of voting itself.

For the first time, voters in England who headed to the polls needed to bring with them photographic ID. Accepted forms of ID included passports, driving licences, 60+ Oyster cards (but not the 18+ student ones) and some bus passes.

While the requirements are new to England, they are not uncommon in other countries, having been in place in Northern Ireland for 20 years, and the majority of European nations have some sort of voter identification or verification rules in place at elections though many of these countries have established national ID card systems.

The rules were brought in to tackle voter fraud, yet there has been deep suspicion over whether this was the actual reason in some quarters. Those against the changes believe the introduction of voter ID in England has left a number of people, often from more marginalised groups, unable to cast ballots in elections.

And it has been revealed that in Hull, the turnout for those who voted was only 22.01% – around a fifth of the population eligible to vote. How much voter ID has had an impact remains to be seen. But there have been stories of people being turned away because they did not have a photo ID.

The leader of the labour party in Hull, Daren Hale, expressed fears that vote ID had an impact on the turnout. “The turnout has been affected by voter ID,” he said in a statement. It is not a case of people being turned away at the polling station but people not opting to go out to vote in the first place. It is a concern for us as we are trying to encourage everyone to get out and vote.”

Shortly after the polls closed, the Electoral Commission confirmed the logistics of voter ID had gone well but admitted some people were turned away. A spokesman said: “These were the first set of polls to take place since the voter ID requirement came into force. Our initial assessment is that overall, the elections were well run.”

“We are collecting data from polling stations about the numbers turned away and returning, and carrying out national public opinion research to collect data about voters’ experiences.”

  • Writer Chris Saunders

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