England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance

What to expect at our upcoming Ask the Expert session on Voter ID


Photo by Red Dot on Unsplash

In advance of next week’s Ask the Expert: The Impact of Voter ID in the UK, Dr Greg Stride explores the story so far on voter ID, and outlines the progress of our research.

This May, for the first time across England, voters were required to show photographic identification to vote in polling stations. The debates around this policy are well-trodden ground by this point, with those in favour of the policy emphasising security (preventing electoral fraud) and those opposed favouring inclusivity (making it as easy as possible to vote).

But these well-publicised disagreements are missing a key perspective – that of the electoral administrators tasked with implementing the policy.

Elections in England are organised and run by small groups in each local authority (usually around 4-4.5 full-time staff according to Democracy Volunteers research) and these staff have been reporting significant difficulties running elections for years, contending with short timetables, limited resources and a stressful working environment.

Before the elections, the Association of Electoral Administrators’ chief executive Peter Stanyon wrote for us about how voter ID adds new pressures on top of the existing challenges they face.

Our research, funded by the JRSST-CT, now centres around this simple question:

What did implementing ID look like from behind the scenes?

We’ve surveyed over 150 administrators across England that took part in the local elections this year and are currently interviewing more administrators to improve our analysis with more in-depth information.

The results are stark. Electoral administrators reported major problems with recruiting polling station staff. These local elections were said to be more difficult to organise, more stressful for administrators, and only a small proportion of administrators believed the elections were more secure than before.

On the other hand, a few of the predicted problems did not materialise in this set of local elections. Very few administrators had difficulty processing the Voter Authority Certificates – the free ID available to anyone without identification. There were, thankfully, few reports of disturbances at polling stations, although perhaps still more than would be ideal.

There are also areas where administrators are divided, such as whether certain groups found the ID requirement more difficult – a question that we are investigating in our interview research.

We will be continuing our analysis throughout the summer – but in the meantime, LGIU members can sign up to our upcoming Ask the Expert session on the 28th June here and explore more of the details with us.

Want to find out more about the context of voter ID in the UK? Check out this member-exclusive briefing:

The face of democracy: photo ID arrives at UK elections


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