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Voting reforms – 07.07.23

The right to vote in Wales is being insidiously and covertly undermined. 

A report published by the Electoral Commission found that during the recent Council elections in England, a staggering 14,000 people were turned away from polling booths for failing to show their ID (Identification documents such as passports or driving licenses). 

The report also found that 74% of people who did not possess ID were not aware of the need to bring one to vote, and only 57% of people were aware that they could apply for a Voter Authority Certificate. 

It is important to note that according to the data, nearly two-thirds of those who were rejected at the ballot box returned later in the day to vote, having acquired the correct form of ID. 

While most people noted in the report were eventually able to vote, it is essential to point out that turnout for Council elections is consistently lower than turnout during UK parliamentary elections.

According to data from The Elections Centre, the percentage of overall turnout for Council elections in the United Kingdom during 2022 ranged from 23.4% to 51.2%. By contrast, turnout during the 2019 UK General election was 67.3%. 

Therefore, new ID requirements have the potential to have major implications for UK parliamentary and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in Wales. So much so, that Jess Blair, director of The Electoral Reform Society in Wales has gone so far as to suggest that Wales is facing a “ticking time bomb”, which could see thousands of voters disenfranchised in Wales, at the next general election. 

Organisations such as The Electoral Reform Society argue that compelling voters to bring ID in order to vote risks disenfranchising poor and marginalised communities. 

Indeed, research from The Electoral Commission shows that people without approved photo ID are more likely to be from disadvantaged communities. 

For instance, 10 – 17% of those renting from their local authority or housing association, 14% of unemployed, 8% of those who are DE social grade and 7% of those with lower education attainment levels are less likely to possess photo ID.

IFF Research also shows that the need to produce ID at polling stations would make it difficult to vote for 12% of those with a severely limiting disability and 8% of those with a somewhat limiting disability. 

The UK Government’s own estimates suggests that around 100,000 people are believed to lack photo ID in Wales – around 4.3% of the Welsh electorate.  

Given that there is also a correlation between voting and affluence and that young people are frequently under-represented at the polls, this is a ticking time bomb indeed, with the new rules likely to further deter young people and those from disadvantaged groups from voting. 

All this was followed by news last week that changes proposed by the Boundary Commission for Wales mean that the number of parliamentary seats in Wales will be reduced from 40 to 32 at the next General election. 

While boundary changes will not impact the ability to vote, they will further reduce Wales’ representation at Westminster – an institution which is increasingly appearing out of touch with the people of Wales. Is it any wonder therefore that the latest polls show that support for Welsh independence is back up to over a third? 

Westminster’s attempts to undermine democracy should not play a role in shaping ours. 

Our path to democracy lies not at the UK parliamentary level, but at our own – as a sovereign and independent country where we should be free to determine our own course rather than be shaped by the politics of Westminster. Join Yes Cymru today.

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