Key findings

Nearly everyone in these pilots who went to their polling station to vote was able to show ID without difficulty, as in 2018. Out of all those who went to their polling station, the proportion who couldn’t show ID and who did not return to vote ranged from 0.03% to 0.7%.

Some groups of people may find it harder than others to show ID, particularly photo ID. This includes people with accessibility challenges as well as other less frequent voters who did not attempt to vote on 2 May but are more likely to do so at a UK general election. 

Impact on voters on 2 May

The number of people who were not able to show ID

Nearly everyone who came to their polling station and wanted to vote in each of the pilots was able to show the right identification and be issued with a ballot paper.

Some people did, initially, go to their polling station without the right identification and could not be issued with a ballot paper. Many of these people came back later with the right identification.

The proportion of people who did not return ranged from 0.03% of all polling station voters in one local authority to 0.7% in two other areas.

We cannot speculate or draw any conclusions about the reasons why these people did not return, because it was not possible for polling station staff to collect information from them.

Number of people who were not able to show ID 

Mixed model pilots
 Number of people initially refused ballot paperNumber of people who didn’t return with IDPeople who didn’t return, as percentage of those who voted in the polling station 
Braintree203730.3%
Broxtowe231690.3%
Craven129490.7%
Derby5142560.6%
North Kesteven145680.4%
Poll card pilots
 Number of people initially refused ballot paperNumber of people who didn’t return with IDPeople who didn’t return, as percentage of those who voted in the polling station 
Mid Sussex1580.03%
NW Leicestershire266610.4%
Watford94-20933-510.2%
Photo ID only pilots
 Number of people initially refused ballot paperNumber of people who didn’t return with IDPeople who didn’t return, as percentage of those who voted in the polling station 
Pendle2841010.7%
Woking87220.1%

For the photo and mixed ID pilot models, the average proportion not issued with a ballot paper was the same at 0.4%. The poll card model saw a smaller proportion not being able to vote at 0.2%.

Polling station staff were not asked to collect demographic data about the people who did not come back, owing to the practical challenges involved in carrying out that data collection exercise. That means we have no direct evidence to tell us whether people from particular backgrounds were more likely than others to find it hard to show ID.

However, it is possible to look at the numbers not issued with a ballot paper at a ward level within each pilot, compared with demographic data for the ward. Derby, Pendle, Watford and Woking are the only pilots with sufficient diversity in ethnic background to allow for this analysis.

Having made this assessment, there is no clear picture across these pilots but we do see noteworthy findings in some areas:

  • In Derby there is a strong correlation between the proportion of each ward’s population from an Asian background and the number of people not issued with a ballot paper.
  • In Pendle there is a weak correlation between the proportion of each ward’s population from an Asian background and the number initially arriving at a polling station with no ID or the wrong ID.

In the 2019 data we do not see any such correlation in Woking and Watford, although in the 2018 pilot in Watford there was a strong relationship between the proportion of Asian residents and the number not issued with a ballot paper.

The evidence is therefore mixed and it is important to be clear that this correlation analysis does not definitively suggest that Asian voters were disproportionately affected by the requirement to show ID.

However, this does emphasise the importance of ensuring that the ID requirements are suitable for all and that any public awareness activities are genuinely effective across all communities.

Impact on voters on 2 May: accordions

Impact on potential voters: beyond the pilots

These findings raise questions about the effects of an ID requirement at future elections, where previous research suggests that the demographic profile of likely voters is different (e.g. local election voters tend to be, on average, older).

Impact on potential voters: beyond the pilots: accordions

Report navigation links

Last updated: 15 October 2019
Next review: 11 July 2020