A few months ago there was a change in how elections are run in this country, when the Elections Act 2022 came into force

The Act bought in a wide range of changes that will have an impact in London including removing second preference voting in Mayoral contests, but arguably the biggest change was the introduction of compulsory voter ID.

This was trialled in the local elections in May this year to mixed success. The Electoral Commission’s full report is not due out till September but their initial findings have been so troubling that they have released an interim report.  This can be found here. The biggest takeaway for me from this was that 14,000 people were not able to vote as a direct result of these changes.

The most significant reason for this does seems to have been lack of awareness of the new rules – only 84% of people knew about the new requirements according to the interim report. I would here quote a family member who when reminded of the need to bring ID said ‘well I never have to in the past’.

Another issue which is of particular concern for us in 4in10 however is unequal access to the right forms of ID. The House of Commons Library produced a report in which they said:

‘The proportion of respondents to the Electoral Commission’s Public Opinion Tracker 2022 who did not have a suitable form of ID for voting was higher among more disadvantaged groups. 14% of unemployed people, 10-17% of those living in rented local authority or housing association accommodation and 7% of people with lower levels of education did not have a suitable form of ID.’

Indeed the interim report found that two of the groups were awareness was lowest was among younger age groups (18 to 24-year-olds) and Black and minority ethnic communities which were both at 82%.


Valid forms of ID

The other issue that continues to be of concern is the types of valid ID. The list of ID that is accepted can be found here.

If you have a look at this list, one thing that becomes immediately clear is that the majority, if not all, of the options available cost money to obtain – a passport for example costs a minimum of £90 once you take into account the cost of the photo.

Some would then counter with the fact that in theory you can obtain a ‘free’ form of ID from your council but even this isn’t completely free as you are expected to bring a passport style photograph with you.

For some families that are already having to choose between heating and eating, paying for a photo to be produced and then spending time finding and filling in a complicated form simply can’t be a priority.

This can be shown in that awareness and take-up of the Voter Authority Certificate (a free voter ID document you can apply for) was low with only 89,500 certificates being issued around the whole Country according to the Electoral Commission’s interim report.


The London Context

London already has one of the lowest voter registration rates in the UK and these changes has the potential to make this situation considerably worse.

There are many reasons for this but one of the biggest is the high proportion of ethnic minority communities in London. Voter registration tends to be lower in ethnic minority communities. This is the case for many reasons, including in particular insecure, short term housing but no matter what the cause the result remains the same.

We at 4in10 are concerned that unless more is done to raise awareness of the new rules and to make it easier and cheaper to obtain the necessary ID, then Londoners who are already at most at risk of being disenfranchised will be denied the right to vote.

That is why over the last few months we have been supporting Shout Out UK who have been leading the public awareness campaign on this issue and we will continue to do so.

We are asking our membership to help us and Shout Out UK by spreading the word about it and where possible help people to get the ID that they need. Find out how here.