Voter ID plans will disenfranchise young, Black and Asian, Council tells MPs

Thousands of young and non-white voters in Hackney could face significant barriers to casting their vote under the Government’s plans to force them to present photo ID at polling stations, new Council analysis shows.

Under its Elections Bill, ministers want polling staff to ask for a driving licence, passport or a new Voter Card – that residents would need to apply for in advance of Election Day – before voters will be allowed to cast a ballot.

The Government says the changes will tackle electoral fraud, despite the Electoral Commission’s evidence that there are very low levels of this in the UK. 

One in four residents don’t hold a UK passport, and in nearly half of households in Hackney, nobody holds a driving licence, with young people less likely to – and Black and Asian people and those from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities less likely to do so than White residents.

In its submission to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is investigating the proposals, the Council said this means these communities – already less likely to vote – could be disproportionately affected, with existing inequalities in turnout further entrenched. 

The Bill contains little information about how the new Voter Card system will operate, how residents would apply or who would be eligible.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney
Our country should be encouraging more people to take part in elections – not putting up more barriers in front of people wanting to have their say.

Most families in Hackney don’t drive – especially our younger, Black and Asian residents – and tens of thousands of our residents don’t hold a passport. 

Put simply, these half-baked plans are an unacceptable attack on democracy and in places like Hackney will disenfranchise thousands of people from their right to vote.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney

As a diverse borough and one with low levels of car ownership, Hackney Council estimates that 47% of households in Hackney have no driving licence holder. The percentage of residents without a driving license is likely to be higher as multiple people will be without a driving licence in one household. The latest available figures show 27.9% of Hackney residents did not hold a UK passport and 6.8% of residents did not hold a passport of any kind.

And while 40% of residents in Hackney are from Black, Asian or other ethnic minority groups, 47% of Black people and 39% of Asian people do not hold a full driving licence in the UK, compared to 24% of White people. Nearly half of Hackney’s residents are under 30, and are far less likely to hold a driving licence than older people or those outside London. 

The Electoral Commission’s 2019 voter ID pilot found awareness of the voter ID laws in the pilot local authorities varied significantly between different groups, with younger and non-white voters less likely to know about the requirements.

In its evidence, the Council also raised concerns about proposed amendments to the Bill which would replace the Supplementary Vote system in Mayoral elections with First Past The Post, which it believes results in less political diversity in elected representatives and the inaccurate representation of the electorate.