Awareness Of Voter ID Change Next Month Is 'Worryingly Low', Campaigners Warn

Polling stations are drafting in extra staff to help voters with the government's new rules.
People gather around an oversized Union Jack themed ballot box as they prepare to vote.
People gather around an oversized Union Jack themed ballot box as they prepare to vote.
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Awareness of a major change to the rules on who can vote is “worryingly low”, campaigners have warned.

For the first time, everyone voting in person in the local elections on Thursday, May 4, will need to show a form of photo identification.

However, the Electoral Commission says almost a quarter of people still do not know that they will be turned away from the polling station if they do not have the appropriate ID.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of campaign group the Electoral Reform Society, said the changes had been “snuck in” despite little evidence of voter impersonation in the UK.

“The awareness of this is so worrying low because it has been sort of snuck in that people on the front line on election day are going to be facing voters who are quite confused,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

“People who are genuinely the person they say they are, who either don’t have ID or who have simply forgotten it, being not given a ballot paper.

“That means that one person being turned away is going to be far too many given that we don’t have this problem of people pretending to be someone else.”

There are concerns that thousands of voters could be “disenfranchised”, with Tory ministers accused of pricing people out.

Downing Street rejected calls from the Electoral Commission and Local Government Association [LGA] to delay the implementation until after May’s local elections.

HuffPost UK revealed last year that the government was spending £3.5million on voter ID cards for those who do not have alternatives.

Driving licences and passports are valid as are some older people’s travel cards. However, a young person’s rail card or Oyster card will not be accepted.

Craig Westwood, director of communications at the Electoral Commission, told Today that workers had been preparing “for months” to put plans in place for the change.

“There will be more staff,” he said. “Some polling stations, particularly larger ones where there are more people who will be registered in that area, will have greeters, people who are outside the polling station that can just make sure that people are definitely aware of the ID requirement.”

Councillor Kevin Bentley, from the LGA, said he was concerned about electoral staff being overwhelmed with enquiries and that councils may struggle to recruit enough staff for polling stations.

He added: “Councils are working around the clock to deliver the local elections and the new voter ID requirements, which is the biggest change to in-person voting in 150 years. The practical effort required to deliver this change in such a short timeframe should not be understated.”


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