England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance

What to expect from LGIU’s brand-new Voter ID research

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Photo by Red Dot on Unsplash

Dr Greg Stride from LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre summarises the findings from our latest report, The impact of voter ID: The views of administrators. This research has been funded by the JRSST-CT. 

Voter ID is the latest in a series of pressures introduced to electoral administrators who have spent years under serious strain. Electoral services staff are contending with resource constraints, complex legislation, tight timetables, and a stressful working environment – and voter ID has only added to each of these issues.

Although voter ID was introduced without visible problems in the May elections, we cannot mistake this for meaning that there were no issues. Serious pressures on electoral services staff remained behind the scenes this time, but electoral administrators are concerned that the pressures of a general election will offer an opportunity for serious disruptions to occur.

In terms of administration, electoral administrators generally found that voter ID added to their existing pressures:

  • the short timetables
  • limited resources
  • issues with recruiting temporary staff
  • complicated legislation and guidance
  • and, the stress of working on elections

were all said to have been exacerbated by voter ID.

British passport accepted as a form of Voter ID

On the security of elections, electoral administrators were not concerned about electoral fraud but showed some concern about the increased risk of disturbances at polling stations, especially at a general election.

Electoral administrators were near-unanimously concerned about turnout, but this was true before the introduction of voter ID. Administrators were split on the question of whether voter ID had an outsized effect on certain social groups, with many saying that the low-turnout nature of local elections and the limited available data makes this hard to determine. Those who did specify certain groups who may have found it more difficult, mentioned elderly electors, younger electors, disabled electors, electors without English as a first language, LGBTQ+ electors, electors who wear face coverings for religious reasons, poorer electors and electors without access to the internet.

On the perceptions of elections, administrators were unconvinced that the introduction of voter ID has reduced public concerns about fraud and mentioned public complaints about voter ID being introduced for political reasons – a trend in public opinion that needs to be monitored. Public confidence in the electoral process cannot be assumed and steps need to be taken to address any potential risks to that confidence.

Elections are an essential local service, and like any essential local service, they need to be implemented well. Although elections seem to be working well on the surface, the research we have done on voter ID demonstrates that under the surface, there are severe pressures in the world of electoral administration. Changes are essential to stop these invisible pressures from developing into unignorable election failures.

The LGIU will be launching this report on 13th September 2023 at 10:00. Over 160 people have registered to attend so far. The event will be recorded and available on our website.

Want more on this topic? Check out these:

The impact of Voter ID: FAQs

Voter ID and the question of trust

When elections go wrong… four things we can learn from a big week of election mishaps

LGIU response to the Electoral Commission’s report on voter ID

The face of democracy: photo ID arrives at UK elections

For even more resources, check out LGIU’s collection of resources on democracy, devolution and governance



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2 thoughts on “What to expect from LGIU’s brand-new Voter ID research

  1. Just read this as the third report I have read on this topic this week, the others being those published by the APPG for Democracy and the Constitution and the Electoral Commission. What is misisng from all three is any attempt to speak to the people most able to advise about the impact on different demographics. The poliing station presiding officers – as one such I can tell you having run the same station for many years that the deficit in young people was the most remarkable. They dont usually turn out in huge numbers for local elections but you do notice them because they are often the first time nervous voters or they come in as part of a famnily group. It really stood out to me that they didnt turn out in May – my presumption being they didint have the necessary ID.

    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for your reply and your interest in the research (also, thanks for being a Presiding Officer!) I agree that talking to polling station staff is important, and I know there is some research going on into this. The APPG report has an appendix with a submission by Prof Toby James where he mentions they’ve done a survey of polling station staff, and they also reference it in this video here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLcFznAjFU4 – where they go through a few of their results. You might find these interesting as is, but I don’t remember either mentioning the impact on different demographics. Maybe that will come later. Thanks for your valuable reflection on younger voters too, definitely food for thought

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