Up to two million people could not be able to vote in England due to a controversial new rule

A view of a polling station sign in Royston (REUTERS/Peter Cziborra) (PETER CZIBORRA/)

The English vote today in local elections, in what will give an overview of public opinion for the first time since he took office Rishi Sunak as prime minister, after several scandals that caused the Conservative Party to falter, not to mention the strikes and economic turbulence that the nation has been suffering in recent months.

In these elections, which are seen as one of the last opportunities to gauge public support before the 2024 national elections, more than 8,000 seats in 230 local councils in almost all of England. There are no elections in Scotland or Wales, while Northern Ireland will vote on May 18. London, the UK’s largest city, will not elect its mayor and council until 2024.

But they will not be ordinary elections. This is the first time voters will be required to show a photo identification.

The government justifies this measure -used in many democracies around the world- as a tool to prevent electoral fraud. But critics say there is little evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Britain.

A sign reminding voters to present photo identification (REUTERS/Peter Cziborra)
A sign reminding voters to present photo identification (REUTERS/Peter Cziborra) (PETER CZIBORRA/)

Previously, people in England, Scotland and Wales could attend a polling station and simply give their address, or else carry their electoral card with them. Now, the documents necessary to cast the vote are (only in original versions, not in photocopy) the passport; he driving licensea Blue Badge (a document that helps people with disabilities or health problems to park closer to their destination); a bus pass for seniors or people with disabilities; or any identity document carried by the age proof standards outline hologram. National identity documents issued by a country in the European Economic Area and biometric immigration documents also count.

The ID will still be usable even if it is out of date, as long as the voter still resembles their image and their name matches the one on the voter roll.

This new requirement has generated criticism and accusations that the change will disproportionately prevent young people from voting, that they are the group least likely to support the Conservatives. People poor are also less likely to have an ID with photo than the richest.

It is estimated that 2 million adults lack the necessary documentation to vote.

Additionally, a survey conducted by YouGov the week before the election found that approximately a quarter of voters are unaware of this change, which means that people could be turned away at polling stations for not carrying the relevant documentation with them. Those without acceptable identification were allowed to apply for an electoral authority certificate, but the April 25 deadline has passed, leaving many voters unable to vote.

A man leaves The Brocket Arms pub, which acts as a polling station for local elections in Ayot St Lawrence (REUTERS / Peter Cziborra)
A man leaves The Brocket Arms pub, which acts as a polling station for local elections in Ayot St Lawrence (REUTERS / Peter Cziborra) (PETER CZIBORRA /)

This requirement will be necessary for all future ballots, as well as police and crime commissioner elections, general elections, and recall petitions.

The Electoral Reform Society has strongly opposed the introduction of this mandate. Jess Garland, the Society’s director of policy and research, said of today’s vote to Guardian: “We are already seeing countless examples of people being they are denied the right to vote because of these new laws. From people caught off guard for having the wrong type of photo ID to others turned away for not looking close enough to their photo.”

A voter rejected is a voter of more. The government must take lessons from the problems we are seeing today in polling stations across the country and face the fact that these new rules hurt our elections more than they protect them,” he added.

However, in the early afternoon, the Association of Election Administrators said that no major problems had been reported so far. peter stanyon, its chief executive, reported that “voting day appears to be running smoothly as usual, a testament to the months of planning and hard work by the election officials and election administrators who ran today’s elections. We hope that the rest of the day will continue in the same vein”.

Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said she had been told of problems in her constituency. “We have received reports of people being turned away at polling stations for not having proper identification. Across the country, I am concerned that these are significant numbers and even more so after exactly zero people were found guilty of fraud last year.”

Rebecca Bakera political scientist at the University of Exeter, had already warned the news agency PA that “very likely there will be voters who show up on the day who cannot use the voting booth.”

Polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and closed at 10:00 p.m. local time.

Keep reading:

Nick Herbert: “LGBT+ rights are not just a Human Rights issue, there is also an economic argument”

Facial recognition and a million-dollar budget: what the security operation will be like for the coronation of Carlos III