The UK Government has responded to Best for Britain supporters' feedback about the implementation of new voter ID rules at the local elections in May after thousands wrote to the Department for Levelling Up setting out concerns. Ministers have commited to publishing a formal evaluation no later than November 2023 and to consider 'updates to the list of accepted identification'.
In May this year, voters in some parts of England took part in the first local election in Great Britain where they were required to present mandatory photo ID. In a few weeks the first Parliamentary by-elections will take place where voters will have to show ID, and next year we will face the first General Election under these new rules.
We now know, just as we had warned, more than 14,000 people were recorded as losing their right to vote in May because they did not have the correct photo ID. These figures don't even include the people who realised they didn't have ID and turned around before they went into the polling station or just stayed at home.
With a General Election looming Best for Britain is extremely concerned about the effect these new rules could have. May's election involved only a portion of local authorities in England, while next year's General Election will take place across the whole UK and with millions more registered voters. Returning Officers and electoral administrators have repeatedly raised their concerns about the potential for chaos on election day and the Electoral Commission has put their concerns on record.
So what is the UK Government doing about it?
Best for Britain supporters took their feedback to the UK Government back in May by writing to the Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing which oversees elections. More than 3,000 people wrote to the Department to tell them about their own experience, the experiences of family and friends and their concerns about future elections in their area.
A key concern is that this unnecessary change to the law is part of this government's broader effort to close down all the ways they can be held to account, on the streets, in the media and in this case, at the ballot box. For example, bus passes for over-60s are accepted at the polls, while young peoples’ bus passes and student IDs are not.
Today the Elections Policy Minister, Baroness Scott of Bybrook, wrote to Best for Britain's supporters to set out the Government's response. Though the letter sets out the Government position, it doesn't address any of our primary concerns that show these reforms have done more harm than good.
The Minister does, though, promise us a report by November that outlines what needs to change to make voter ID work better and crucially committed to looking at changing the list of IDs that will be accepted at future elections.