A lobby group has called on the UK government to remove mandatory identification for in-person voters, as it reported that “a significant number” of people were left out of local polls on Thursday in England.

Under the Election Act 2022, UK voters are legally required to provide photo identification before casting their vote, in line with a system in place in Northern Ireland since 2007.

But activists have criticized the government’s decision to allow only some forms of identificationsuch as passports and driver’s licenses, pointing to estimates that between 925,000 and 2 million voters lack eligible documents.

Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy, said it was clear from follow-up comments on social media that the new system worked “very poorly” on Thursday. “A significant number of people were unaware of the need for voter ID,” he said, adding that the requirement should now be removed.

In West Sussex, Andrew Vince, a health worker, told the BBC he was “outraged” after being prevented from using his NHS staff card to vote.

In Milton Keynes, Chris Curtis, a Labor parliamentary candidate, saying on Twitter: “Just had a nurse, come back from a long shift, get turned away at the polling station because they didn’t accept her NHS ID card.”

Meanwhile, Mark Oakley, co-leader of “Evusheld for the UK”, a patient campaign group, said some immunocompromised people had been deterred from voting because they did not want to remove their masks indoors.

“We know that many people contacted their local council about this and were told that this was the guidance,” he said. “And we know that a lot of people said that if that were the case, they wouldn’t even go to the polling station because they don’t want to risk it.”

The Electoral Commission, the polling watchdog, said it would take weeks to determine the impact of the new law on voter turnout.

“We already know from our research that the ID requirement posed a greater challenge for some groups in society and that unfortunately some people were unable to vote today as a result,” he said. “It will be essential to understand the extent of this impact, and the reasons behind it, before a final opinion can be made on how the policy has worked in practice.”

The watchdog is expected to publish an initial analysis of voter ID implementation in June, with a more extensive report to be released in September.

The government has insisted that the new rules were introduced because of concerns about in-person voter fraud, previously saying: “We cannot be complacent when it comes to ensuring our democracy remains secure.”

However, the Electoral Commission has said that, since 2018, there have only been nine convictions and six police reprimands in relation to the offence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *