An East Anglian council denies accusations that election officers briefed polling clerks to break the law in dealing with voters without identification. This is the first election in which voter ID is required.
The government’s new legislation requires voters to produce photo-based personal identification (ID) before being allowed to put their cross. This in spite of there being no more than a handful of attempts at fraud in any British election over the past few years. The forms of voter ID are carefully specified, and critics have suggested they are slanted towards older voters who are more likely to vote Conservative.
Staff confirm they had been briefed “to save on the paperwork”
However, East Anglia Bylines discovered three polling stations in East Suffolk on Thursday where staff confirmed they had been briefed that, if possible, voters without voter ID were to be headed off before they entered the polling station proper, so they would not have to be recorded. The reason given by one polling clerk was that “it will save on the paperwork”.
If this were true, it was clearly in contravention of the Electoral Commission’s stipulations. The Commission has specified that those voters turned away because they don’t have the correct form of identification have to be registered, in order to draw up accurate data on the effects of the new legislation. The Commission says:
“By law, polling station staff must record data when a ballot paper can’t be issued because a voter didn’t have accepted form of ID. This includes data on people who are turned away and later return with accepted ID.”
Nobody available at East Suffolk to talk
East Anglia Bylines tried throughout Thursday afternoon to discuss the issue with East Suffolk election staff, but nobody was available and nobody rang back. Instead, the council issued this statement:
“We can categorically confirm that polling station staff have not been briefed to intercept voters in order to avoid recording those without identification.
“We have been placing greeters on the doors of busier polling stations, as is permitted under government guidance, to explain voter identification requirements before voters receive a ballot paper. This is a standard practice to avoid unnecessary queueing or prolonged waiting for voters.”
Voter ID: two contradictory accounts
Clearly the two accounts can’t both be correct. The three polling station staff were independently interviewed and were from different areas. A fourth later also volunteered the same information via social media. The council categorically deny their accounts, though were not prepared to discuss it with East Anglia Bylines.
It is also difficult to understand the process by which greeters outside the polling station – who have no legal standing – can explain to those without identification, then shepherd them into the polling station to be registered but not to vote, and how this process is expected to save time.
For the record, there is evidence to suggest that other councils across the region and elsewhere were briefing their staff in similar ways to those accusations against East Suffolk, but East Anglia Bylines has not had the opportunity of verifying them.
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