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Local election ID trial ‘preventing people from voting’

MPs and local councillors said people are being turned away because they do not have ID.

Residents in areas piloting controversial ID trials in local elections have been barred from voting, according to reports on social media.

Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking councils are piloting the scheme to help cut down voter fraud.

MPs and councillors have said people, including elderly residents, are being turned away from the polls because they do not have appropriate ID.

Angela Wilkins, leader of the Labour group in Bromley, said five people have been unable to vote at polling stations as a result of the pilot and that the scheme is also causing long delays.

She tweeted: “Just been round the C Palace polling stations. 5 people not able to vote due to #voterID pilot and several walked away because of queues @CatSmithMP @labour4bromley. So why are we doing this .@LBBromley ?”

The presiding officer at the polling station in Sydenham Tennis Club, in the Borough of Bromley, said “Only a very small percentage” of voters had forgotten or were unable to provide ID.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said residents had received five pieces of information explaining the change in the rules, including leaflets, a note with their polling cards and a note on the information about recycling and bin collection.

He added: “Voters always have the choice to go home and get some ID.”

Kirsteen Ross, 67, who lives nearby, said she had received at least two leaflets about the change, although no polling cards had been delivered down her street.

“Polling cards are important because they’re a reminder,” she said.

When asked if she thought the scheme was a good idea, she replied: “No, it’s another restriction on civil liberties – it’s just another way to marginalise people who are already marginalised. They might not have any photo ID.”

Labour councillor Tahir Aziz said a man was turned away from voting at a polling station on Walton Road in Woking because his form of ID, a Surrey County Council document with his picture on it, was not accepted.

Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Aziz said: “This gentleman turned up, showed his ID which included a picture that was clearly him, it was an exact resemblance, but they wouldn’t accept it as it was not on the list of acceptable forms of ID.

“He was fuming. He was furious. He is a British national and he couldn’t vote.

“It is having an impact on certain people being disenfranchised by this trial.”

Ellie Reeves, Labour MP for Lewisham West, said that two people had been turned away from voting this morning because they did not have ID on them.

She tweeted: “Just been to vote. Was informed that two people had already turned up without ID this morning so had been unable to vote. Very worrying and backs up all the evidence that the voter ID pilot in Bromley is plain wrong.”

One elderly Bromley resident who was also turned away at the polls this morning said he was “shocked” to be denied his vote because he did not have a bank card or passport.

“This is a nonsense scheme,” Peter White, 76, told The Independent.

Hazel Walters, a resident of Bromley since 1983, told the newspaper: “It’s absurd. I think it will discriminate against people. Not everyone’s got a passport, a driving licence and all of that. I think people will be disenfranchised,” she said.

“We’re trying to get homeless people to exercise their right to vote, and then at the same time we’re putting all these barriers in place. The council didn’t consult on this or anything.

“It’s so arbitrary and unnecessary when there are real problems we’ve got to deal with.”

Cat Smith MP, shadow minister for voter engagement, said: “The Government was warned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and over 40 leading charities and academics the voter ID will have a disproportionate impact on older people, young people, BME communities, trans people and disabled people.

“This was always going to be a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The Electoral Commission found that out of nearly 45 million votes cast in the local and General Election in 2017, there were only 28 cases of alleged voter fraud. That’s less than 0.00007% or one case for every 1.6 million votes cast. And out of those 28 cases, there was only one conviction.

“But instead of listening to the experts and the vast evidence base, the Government decided to implement a mistaken policy with the full knowledge that voters could be disenfranchised.

“The fact that voters were denied their right to vote is proof that voter ID has no place in our democracy.”

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: “Returning Officers administering the elections in the pilot areas have run awareness campaigns to inform voters of what form of identification they need to bring in order to be able to vote.

“We encourage anyone who has queries about the pilots to contact their local council’s electoral services department.

“Polling stations are open until 10pm.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The facts are that local authorities told all voters that they need to bring a form of ID in these pilot areas. ID can be things like a bus pass, a driver’s licence.

“The overwhelming majority of people are casting their vote without a problem. A great deal of work has been done in these pilot areas to prepare the public.

“In places like Bromley, people will have had six pieces of direct mail about the pilot and there’s been a widespread poster campaign.”

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