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PEOPLE were denied their democratic right to vote today after failing to show proof of identity under a new rule being tried out to “combat electoral fraud.”
Many were left fuming on being turned away from polling stations for not bringing a form of ID, while others refused to cast a ballot in protest.
In a controversial pilot scheme, ID checks were carried out in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking, requiring people to prove their identity before voting.
Acceptable identity documents included a passport, driving licence, European ID card or Oyster 60+ London travel pass.
Shadow minister for voter engagement Cat Smith said the government had been warned that the voter ID requirement would have a “disproportionate” effect on older people, the young, black communities, trans people and the disabled.
Electoral Commission figures show that there were only 28 allegations of voter impersonation in 2017, even though almost 45 million ballots were cast.
Ms Smith said: “That’s less than 0.00007 per cent, 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.”
In Bradford, the council apologised after a presiding officer turned away voters for not bringing photo ID to a polling station, despite none being necessary, leaving people “very stressed.”
Stand Up to Racism’s Weyman Bennett said: "Not content with racially abusing the Windrush generation, the government wishes to disenfranchise people by adding on us tasks to identify themselves.
“This is not to stop voter fraud but to remove people’s democratic rights to vote for who they want.
“These practises are synonymous with the racist Trump administration and we should have nothing to do with it. Trade unionists, socialist men and women have fought for too long for their right to access the ballot box.”
Across England, 156 elections took place, including 32 in all London boroughs, 34 in metropolitan boroughs, 68 for district and borough councils and 17 to elect unitary authorities.
Mayoral elections were also held in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford.
In a statement, the Electoral Reform Society said: “Evidence from around the world shows that forcing voters to bring photographic ID to the polling station just makes it harder for people to vote.
“It does little to increase faith in the integrity of the system or stop determined fraudsters. We don’t need more barriers to people taking part in our democracy.
“There’s evidence that strict voter ID rules in the US disproportionately disadvantage already marginalised groups.
“Many citizens who can’t afford to go on foreign holidays don’t have passports and those that can’t drive don’t have driving licences.”
The measures also caused a furore on social media, with some people arguing that they discriminate against the poor and vulnerable.
Author Stuart Lowe tweeted: “If you are the household bill-payer, can drive or have international holidays, proving identity can seem easy.
“Requiring voter ID mostly disenfranchises people who are dependent, vulnerable, and/or poor.”
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