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Friday, May 04, 2018

Voter ID turns into voter suppression as people turned away from polling stations

When the UK Government first proposed piloting a requirement for voters to present an ID at the polling station I compared it to the voter suppression techniques used by Republicans in the United States. Republican controlled US states such as Florida have introduced barriers to voting for ethnic minorities and poorer communities with decisive effects in close elections.

As the Mirror reports, indications from yesterday's local council elections appear to support that conclusion. They say that a one volunteer group estimates that more than one in five polling stations turned away voters for not having ID in trial areas.

Five areas, Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking, piloted the anti-fraud scheme in yesterday's local elections.

Voters were told to show their polling card or full photo ID, depending on which area they lived in. But the paper says that reports swiftly emerged of people being turned away. That was also evident on social media as people tweeted their experiences or the experiences of others that they had observed.

The Mirror says that just minutes after polls closed, the Democracy Volunteers group published a shocking snap report on just how many people it claims were turned away. They had observers on 56% of the polling stations within the trial areas:

The report claims voters were refused a ballot paper because they did not have the correct ID in 21% of polling stations.

This was equal to about 1.7% of all voters across the five pilot areas being turned away, the group claimed. The Democracy Volunteers study does NOT count whether any or all of those voters came back with the correct ID, so it may overstate the problem.

It comes after campaigners repeatedly warned voter ID checks would disenfranchise the poor and ethnic minorities, raising fears over people like the Windrush generation.

The Government's rationale for the trial was to deter fraud. However, the Electoral Commission says there were only 21 cases of alleged in-person voter fraud in 2014, 44 in 2016, and 28 in 2017 - just 0.000063% per vote cast.

Surely, this idea should now be consigned to the dustbin.
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