Voter ID: Government plans heading for failure as just 10,000 people apply for government-issued voter ID

Democracy Defence Coalition warns slow take-up of free Voter Authority Certificate and low awareness of new rules could cause chaos on election day with thousands turned away.

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, Wednesday 1 February
  • Contact Jon Narcross, / 07794728820 for interviews or more information.

Campaigners warn the Government’s flagship voter ID policy is heading for failure and election day chaos in May as millions still lack the necessary ID to vote on election day.

The call from the Democracy Defence Coalition – a coalition of leading pro-democracy campaign groups comes as the Guardian revealed just 10,000 people have registered for the new Voter Authority Certificate – the free government-issued ID that would allow voters, who don’t already possess photo identification to cast their ballot [1].

Last month polling by Omnisis for the Byline Times found that 60% of voters do not know they will be unable to vote in England’s May 4 elections if they don’t have a ‘valid’ form of photo ID [2].

Election experts and democracy campaigners have repeatedly warned the government more needs to be done to increase awareness of the changes with ministers refusing even simple steps such as writing directly to voters to inform them about new requirements.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society said:

“Voter ID is the biggest change to how our elections work in a generation and the fact that, less than 100 days away from polling day, millions still lack the means to vote is deeply worrying.

“The government have long claimed that their free ID would ensure that nobody is unable to cast a ballot, but these figures show that the vast majority of those who need one are yet to register – meaning we could see thousands turned away on election day.

“It’s time that ministers think again about this dangerous policy – if they don’t, they risk chaos at the polls in May and risk undermining free and fair elections across the UK.”

Tom Brake, Director, Unlock Democracy said:

“The Government have known about this risk for a long time – their own research suggests that many of those who lack ID simply wouldn’t take the time to register for the required ID to cast their ballot.

“Despite repeated warnings Ministers have pushed ahead and as a result, the UK now has more restrictive voter ID laws than many US states and we can see already what the impact on voters will be.

“It’s time ministers recognised the real risk to the integrity of our elections – their own dangerous policy of photo voter ID.”

The Guardian’s revelations are just the latest sign that the hasty rollout of the policy, which will apply for the first time in May’s local elections, could cause tens of thousands of voters to be turned away from the polling station.

In November it was revealed that the Electoral Commission had privately warned the government that its plans for implementation of the controversial policy are neither “secure” nor “workable” by May’s elections with others, such as the Local Government Association and the AEA expressing concerns over the speed with which ministers have forced the policy thorough [3].