AN ALARMING number of registered voters are unaware of the need to show approved photo ID in order to vote according to a street survey conducted by members of Stratford Compass Group.
The survey was carried out in the middle of a busy Stratford town centre on Saturday, March 18, when over 100 registered voters took part. The aim of the survey was to make people aware of the need to produce voter ID if planning to vote in person in future elections as well as to find out their views on the new rules.
In response to the question, ‘Did you know you now need to provide photo ID to vote in person?’ 62 per cent of the registered voters surveyed said they had no idea. Many also said that family and friends would be unaware too. This finding is particularly worrying for places like Stratford which are holding local elections very soon in May when the new regulations will apply for the first time, campaign group Stratford Compass say.
When asked if they thought having to produce voter ID will stop or deter people from voting, 72 per cnet of the registered voters said they thought it would. Many felt there had been insufficient publicity of the new rules and that the rules were being brought in too quickly.
Some of those surveyed also pointed out the restrictions in the list of what photo ID was acceptable which meant many people, and especially younger, poorer and ethnic minority voters, could find themselves disbarred from voting.
Many questions were raised about the need for photo ID when, unlike many other countries, the UK does not have a compulsory identity card, while many pointed out the disparity between the need for photo ID when voting in person as opposed to no checks being required on those with postal votes.
According to the Electoral Commission the UK has low levels of proven electoral fraud and there remains no evidence of large scale electoral fraud in recent elections. In fact over half of all reported cases were campaigning offences and nothing to do with voting. In the last general election there were only six cases of proven ballot fraud across the whole of the UK.
Chair of Stratford Compass Group, Hazel Underwood, said: “‘We were surprised by how many voters were still unaware of the need to show photo ID at the polling stations, especially this close to the local elections. We believe that everyone should have a voice and the right to vote, but the way that this new rule is being rushed in suggests it will pose a significant barrier this time round. Our results show that more time is needed for the changes to be rolled out and I’d urge Stratford District Council to think about more ways to get the message out to voters.”
SDC’s Returning Officer, David Dalby, said: “Stratford District Council is supporting the Electoral Commission’s campaign in promoting awareness of Voter ID. It has implemented a number of initiatives and has plans to do more over the next five weeks. For instance, every household will receive Voter ID information with their Council Tax bill. Also, Poll Cards have been recently dispatched to every elector and this contains information on Voter ID. The council’s website contains a full list of acceptable forms of Voter ID.”