Democracy Volunteers, the UK’s leading election observation group, has today been conducting observations across 4 of the voter ID trial councils to assess their potential impacts on the future of elections in the UK. This follows a voter ID trial over five areas in 2018, in which Democracy Volunteers observed all 5 councils. In 2018, the observers spent up to 45 minutes in each polling station, whereas to observe the election more closely this year, each polling station was visited for a minimum of an hour each in Derby and Pendle and often longer.

In areas observed by Democracy Volunteers such as Mid Sussex, voters were required to bring their scannable polling cards to vote, whilst only a passport or driving licence would suffice in Pendle and Woking. In Derby, voters were required to bring either one form of photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID.

The team observed 155 polling stations across the four councils (some had two ballot boxes)

Derby 76 out of 86 polling stations attended (88%)
Pendle 47 out of 51 polling stations attended (92%)
Woking 24 out of 43 polling stations attended (56%)
Mid-Sussex 12 out of 75 polling stations attended (16%)

Commenting on the election deployment, Director of Democracy Volunteers Dr John Ault, said,

‘In general, the voter ID trials were well run but the demands put on staff, and the voters, seemed much more challenging where the required standard of the ID was higher. Thus exclusions, based on the data acquired through the observations, suggested that those requiring only a passport or a driving licence were more likely to be turned away because they were unable to offer them, whereas those only requiring a scannable polling card were never excluded.’

‘What is concerning is who and where the higher demands of ID requirement hit hardest. Following the 2018 pilots, we encouraged the Cabinet Office to engage councils with more diverse communities, to see if the impacts would be different. We were pleased to see Derby and Pendle as pilot areas to see if this would have an impact. What seems clear, from our initial assessment of the data collected today, is that those from BAME backgrounds are disproportionately likely to be impacted by photo ID requirements than the general population.’

‘Whilst these are initial findings, we do feel we should highlight these ahead of our final report which will be presented to the Electoral Commission in due course.’

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