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Report finds voter ID system in England led to racial and disability discrimination

Categories Biometrics News  |  Elections
Report finds voter ID system in England led to racial and disability discrimination

According to an inquiry by Members of Parliament, the new voter ID rule, which was first put into practice in 2023 local elections, has led to cases of racial and disability discrimination.

The inquiry found that the system as it stands today “disenfranchises more electors than it protects.” It claims that “polling clerks are more likely to fail to compare a photo ID to the person presenting that document if the person is of a different ethnicity,” worsening the potential for discrimination.

The report also highlighted the case of Andrea Barrett, a disabled immunocompromised woman who wears a mask when in public. Polling officers refused to accept her into the station unless she removed her mask. There were no guidelines for how officers should have responded, but their response discriminated against Barrett by denying her the right to vote as a direct result of her disability, says the report.

At least 14,000 people turned away for every case of voter fraud prevented. The actual number is probably much higher, the report suggests, because the Electoral Commission’s data doesn’t include people turned away by “greeters” before they get the chance to enter the polling station.

The Elections Act 2022 requires voters to show a photo ID document before voting at a polling place with the aim of increasing election integrity. A limited number of IDs are accepted, including older people’s travel passes, but not those of younger voters.

Authorities are required to provide specialist equipment to make voting accessible to disabled voters under the legislation. The act also established a new online platform for absent voters to prevent the abuse of postal voting and introduced a sanction for those convicted of intimidation.

The report concludes that the problems identified are systemic but not fundamental, and with the right changes, the voter-ID regime can protect the integrity of UK voting while being just.

Digital ID was not included among accepted credentials, and a specific voter ID for people without an accepted identity document had very low uptake.

The report recommends that voters can sign a declaration confirming their identity and right to vote if an ID document check fails. Those who falsely declare the right to vote could face up to two years in prison.

It also recommends broadening ID document types accepted and setting aside a criteria for which forms of ID are accepted as well as providing better training for polling station officers. The full report on the impact of the voter ID system is available here.

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