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May 11th, 2023

Locked out: The aftermath of voter ID rule changes at the local elections

By Veronica Hawking

When the Government changed the law to make it harder to vote, many feared it would disenfranchise voters and deprive people of their rights. Now we know: that is exactly what happened – and we have to redouble our efforts to scrap this disgraceful law.

38 Degrees is a community made up of people from all walks of life, who vote for all parties and none. And hundreds of thousands of us had the chance to vote in local elections across the country last Thursday. But due to new voter ID laws, which require voters to show specific forms of voter ID in order to vote, not all of us succeeded.

The 38 Degrees community campaigned hard about these voter ID laws being introduced in the first place. Then, when the Government pushed ahead and introduced them ahead of last weeks local elections, we mounted a huge awareness raising campaign, with over 12,000 of us displaying posters in our windows, a partnership with the Mirror seeing our campaign splashed across their newspaper, and billboards across the country to remind people to bring specific ID with them to vote.

We tried to stop it, and we tried to mitigate the impact of these new rules. But despite our efforts, in the days that followed we have heard story after story from people who were locked out of voting themselves, saw others turned away when they went to vote, and even from polling clerks left with no choice but to enforce the egregious new rules. Below, we share a snippet of these accounts, as the true scale of the problem slowly comes to light.

For some voters, even attempting to go and vote would have been futile:

I didn’t vote as I forgot my ID when near the polling station. I then ran out of time to vote before going to work.” – Alison, Birmingham Ladywood

“I don’t have a driving licence or passport. The online photo ID wasn’t easy to do if you don’t have a professional person to verify who you are so I gave up.” – Susan, Halifax

Many others got as far as the polling station before finding themselves turned away and unable to cast their vote:

“My wife was turned away because she only had her photo ID on her phone which we hadn’t realised wasn’t acceptable. Apparently she wasn’t the first person denied at this polling station. She doesn’t have a new style driving licence. She has a senior railcard but that is what is on her phone – we are encouraged to go digital!” – David, Epping Forest

“I was turned away as [I] had no photo ID, even though I protested that postal voters did not have to provide a photo. And I was an election candidate.” – Marilyn, Newton Abbot

Many voters reported attending the polling station with a form of ID – in many cases a form which was heavily authenticated and would have required a large number of checks before being issued – only to find this was not on the approved list and they could not vote:

“I was a polling clerk. I saw two people who could not vote because of the new rules. The first was an elderly lady who did not have a passport or bus pass or driving licence. She had not applied for the voting ID certificate because she believed the ID she did have would be sufficient. She offered a local authority fostering ID. It had a photo and had been issued by the local authority for which she wanted to vote, but the form of ID was not on the list and so she could not vote.” – Naomi, Altrincham and Sale West

“My daughter who is 22 and is a 4th year medical student was turned away and could not vote as she had her university student ID and was told that this form of ID is not accepted and she needs an official ID – driving licence or passport.” – Amira, Lincoln

“I was turned away the first time. I used my NHS pass which clearly had my photo on it. The clerk advised they could not accept it as it was not on their list.” – Lorraine, Epping Forest

Whilst others found themselves caught by bureaucracy and delays which meant the ID they hold – whether a driving licence or passport – was out of their hands and they therefore could not vote.

“[I] had no photographic ID as waiting for new passport and new driving licence which are both delayed due to back logs at the passport office and DVLA. So I did not even bother to try and go cast my vote without any photographic identification.” – IIene from Gillingham & Rainham

“My ID was still stuck at DVLA and has been there for last 7 months due to strikes.” – Robert, The Wrekin

“I wasn’t allowed to vote. I still have a paper DVLA driving licence so I took my valid Hackney Carriage photo id driving licence issued by Colchester City Council . It was rejected and deemed unacceptable for voting.” – Timothy, Colchester

Even those trying their hardest to get to grips with the new rules and apply for the Government’s official voter ID had no guarantees they would be able to vote:

“I sent for a voter ID card months ago and it hasn’t arrived.” – Adam, South Cambridgeshire

“I applied for a voter ID certificate weeks in advance, but never received one, despite being on the electoral register.” – James, North West Norfolk

From the many messages we’ve received from those who were stopped or witnessed others being stopped from voting, the public anger is clear:

“I didn’t go to vote, for the first time in years, because I do not have any photo ID, I’m so angry that the government has made it even harder for smaller minorities to make their voices heard.” – Vicky, Newark

“I have no photo ID so they wouldn’t let me vote. Everyone in the country doesn’t have a passport or driving licence… probably millions of people don’t…it’s disgusting not being able to vote without.” – Leonard, Haltemprice and Howden

“I wanted to vote but I haven’t photo ID…..I feel angry as it has taken away my right to vote!” – Lecette, Tunbridge Wells

“My Dad who is 83 was turned away because he did not have photo ID. He gave his driving licence back when he had an accident at home 5 years ago, he has no bus pass. These rules were snuck in in an underhand way and it is an affront to democracy. There was not enough information publicised and much of it was online which is not accessible for many elderly people. By the time we knew of a government photo ID, it was too late to apply for it. I am disgusted and I think this is just a way to disenfranchise the voters.” – Tina, Mid Derbyshire

These rules might now be officially in force, but these stories are why at 38 Degrees, we won’t stop campaigning to ensure these wrongs are righted – because even one person locked out from voting is one person too many.

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