Thousands of Disabled people disenfranchised by the introduction of voter ID

Thu,4 May 2023
News Equality & Rights

It's been reported that only 85,000 people have applied for a free voter ID certificate in time for the May Local Elections, despite the Electoral Commission's estimate that over 2 million voters in the UK don't have access to photo ID. 

The Elections Bill, which was passed last year, introduced the requirement of bringing valid photo ID to be able to vote. The new requirement will apply for the first time at the local elections taking place in some areas of England on Thursday 4 May 2023. It will then apply to UK Parliament general elections from October 2023, and to UK Parliament by-elections and recall petitions from May 2023. It will not apply at Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, or council elections taking place in Scotland or Wales.

A large portion of the 2 million people identified as not having access to photo ID will be Disabled individuals, many of whom will already be excluded from engaging in elections due to inaccessible practice. There will also be many Disabled voters with an intersectional experience e.g. Disabled trans people, or Disabled people experiencing domestic abuse, who already face additional barriers to accessing valid identification. 

The Guardian reports that the numbers applying from older and younger demographics are also especially low. Just 2,025 people aged 75-plus applied, and 3,334 aged under 25.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) have stated that voter ID is"vital" to "keep our democracy secure" and "prevent the potential for voter fraud". Yet, last year (when other local elections took place), there was not a single proven case of in-person voter impersonation. 

Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer, said "Disenfranchising nearly 2 million voters across the UK is a completely disproportionate response to what is essentially a non-issue in this country. There have been next no confirmed cases of in-person voter fraud. In fact - there are more risks of fraud or coercive control in postal voting, which the introduction of voter ID will push more people to use. This policy was unnecessary and will prevent those already most marginalised from voting. The inevitable fall-out during the upcoming local elections should prompt the Government to urgently reverse the policy in advance of the next General Election."