One in four Londoners are in the dark about new voter ID requirements imposed by the Government ahead of pivotal elections next year.
With London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan already facing a tight battle against the Tories next May, a new YouGovpoll out on Monday suggests the requirements will disproportionately affect ethnic minority, younger, low-income and disabled voters.
“It’s a significant challenge,” Matteo Bergamini, founder of the voter education group Shout Out UK, told the Standard.
“These groups tend to be under-registered already and with this requirement to show valid ID, or apply for a Voter Authority Certificate, it adds an additional barrier.
“But local governments and third-sector groups are stepping up,” he said to mark Monday’s start of the fifth annual London Voter Registration Week, organised with the Greater London Authority (GLA).
“This campaign is aimed to make sure that everyone in London has the opportunity to understand these voter ID changes and effectively have their say in an election,” Mr Bergamini said.
The Government says the vast majority of voters cast their ballot with ease at last May’s local elections, when the requirement to show officially sanctioned ID was introduced in England in the biggest change to in-person voting in 150 years.
The change was needed to combat possible voter impersonation, ministers said. Opponents stress there is barely any evidence of voter fraud in Britain, with just nine convictions out of tens of millions of ballots cast in the past five years.
With Sir Keir Starmer riding high in the polls against Rishi Sunak, some Labour MPs have alleged a Conservative plot to suppress their party’s vote.
From next month, ID will also be needed to vote in a General Election. Enough voters could be lacking the required documentation - or the new voter certificate - to cause “serious disruption” given a lack of resources for polling stations, a report last week by the Local Government Information Unit warned.
The YouGov poll commissioned by the GLA found that awareness of the rule change has grown to 76 per cent of voters in the capital, up 11 percentage points since March 2023.
But 24 per cent of Londoners are still unaware or don’t know about the new ID requirement, according to the poll.
About one-third of mixed/other and Asian voters are unaware, along with four in 10 voters aged under 25. The young are also the least likely to have an acceptable form of photo ID, although nine in 10 Londoners do have one, such as a passport or driving licence.
Controversially, the Government is refusing to accept a young person’s rail or coach card as proof to vote, while allowing pensioners to show their travel passes.
Ten per cent of disabled Londoners lack an approved ID. But overall, only 20 per cent of Londoners say they have heard of the Voter Authority Certificate, which the Government says is available on application for anyone without another ID.