(Independent.co.uk) – One in four British adults wrongly believe they need to bring ID to vote at the polling station, a new survey shows.
Campaigners warned that that the “dangerous” myth was weakening UK democracy and could depress turnout while the Electoral Commission said it was important for voters to realise they did not need to bring anything to vote – even a polling card.
The ComRes poll found that 25 per cent of adults thought they needed ID – with the figure rising to 32 per cent for younger people aged 18-24. The latter age group is also less likely to have photo ID because of low rates of driving – meaning they could be particularly affected.
“These are worrying numbers. A quarter of people mistakenly thinking they need ID to vote in Britain could mean thousands kept away from the polling booth in this election,” said Laura Townshend, campaigns director at activist group 38 Degrees.
“The fewer of us who vote, the weaker our democracy becomes. There are already complex reasons why some people don’t vote. The mistaken idea that you need to produce a passport or driving license – expensive paperwork that not all of us have – could be the nail in the coffin of some people’s plans to have their say this week.”
“This is a dangerous myth that needs to be busted.”
During the May 2018 local elections the government piloted voter ID schemes in five councils in England. The Tory manifesto is also pledging to bring in voter ID checks at polling stations – but they do not yet exist. The party claims such checks are needed to reduce electoral fraud, despite extremely low rates of impersonation.
Critics say the policy is a case of voter suppression because younger people, poorer people, and ethnic minorities are less likely to have photo ID – exactly the groups that do not vote Tory.
Currently, anyone who is registered to vote can turn up at their designated polling station and cast their ballot, though the deadline to register has passed.
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “It’s important that voters in England, Scotland and Wales know that they don’t need to take ID with them to vote on Thursday, nor do they need to take their polling card.
“Voters in Northern Ireland however do have to take a form of photo ID, as has been the case since 2003.”