The local elections on 4th May will be the first time that individuals will have to show photo ID at polling stations in order to vote. The government has said that the change, introduced by the Elections Act 2022, was designed to combat voter fraud and tighten democratic integrity.
But critics fear that the new legislation could disenfranchise groups who are less likely to have an accepted form of photo ID. For many, the new law is therefore reflective of a shift in British politics away from democratic equality. For those who do not have one, it is possible to apply for voting ID, but the uptake has been low. Political Commentator Busayo Twins says, “At first glance we might think that the new law protects democracy, but it just adds another barrier to participation”.
Matteo Bergami, founder and CEO of Shout Out UK – a non-partisan provider of political and media literacy education – says the new law will require “a massive shift” in people’s habits and electoral behaviours. He fears that older generations are at risk of political alienation since their behaviours will need longer to adjust.
But it is not only the aged who are facing this risk of disenfranchisement. In 2022, the Electoral Commission’s Public Opinion Tracker found that approximately 1.9 million voters (4% of people in Britain) did not possess any of the accepted ID forms. In addition, the Cabinet Office estimates that approximately 1.3 million people in Britain do not hold any form of ID.