London Voices Briefing Paper: Voter ID and electoral reform

What you need to know:

  • 109 civil society organisations of various sizes and from across London completed a stakeholders’ survey in the summer of 2021 for the London Voices research project.
  • 63% (69 London civil society organisations) surveyed for the London Voices research project disagreed with the introduction of photo voter ID requirements.
  • Key concerns were that photo voter ID would reduce democratic participation thus widening the democratic deficit, and impose unfair barriers on already marginalised communities, such as disabled Londoners and Black, Asian and ethnic minority Londoners.

The Elections Bill poses two key questions: who should vote, and how should we vote? This briefing outlines the views of London’s civil society to potentially unprecedented changes to democratic rights in England, and thus in London, especially on photo voter ID proposals, and a range of possible electoral reforms.

The London Voices Project

London Voices is a comprehensive research project exploring the views of third sector organisations in London on civic and democratic engagement and the journey to full, equal, accessible, representative participation in local communities, in decisions impacting London and the UK. It is funded by the Trust for London, on behalf of the Citizenship and Integration Initiative, and the UK Democracy Fund, a Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust initiative(1). It has the support of the GLA, and following a competitive process it is delivered by young researchers with lived experience from the Young Europeans Network at the3million.

109 civil society organisations of various sizes and from across London completed a stakeholders’ survey in the summer of 2021 with questions ranging from funding, the impact of COVID on activities and views on electoral reform. Alongside the stakeholders’ survey, 20 follow-up interviews were conducted with representatives of organisations who completed the survey, to add lived experience perspective and qualitative insight.

The full report and co-produced recommendations will be disseminated in the second half of November. This briefing only analyses the questions on voter ID and electoral reform part of the stakeholder survey and interviews.

(1) The UK Democracy Fund funded the work reported in this publication. The material presented here represents the views of the author(s), not necessarily those of JRRT or other UK Democracy Fund contributors.

Key findings

Voter ID
  • 63% (69 civil society organisations) surveyed for the London Voices research project disagreed with the introduction of photo voter ID requirements. The survey, as well as some follow-up interviews, illustrated the lack of awareness of this issue for some organisations – 15% (16 organisations) did not know and 3% (3 organisations) did not answer the question. When we consider only those organisations whose beneficiaries include Black Londoners and other ethnic minorities, around 74% disagree with the introduction of voter ID requirements.
  • As a follow up in the survey, organisations were asked to describe the impact they think photo voter ID would have. The key concerns expressed in the comments are that photo voter ID would reduce democratic participation thus widening the democratic deficit, and impose unfair barriers on already marginalised communities, such as disabled Londoners and Black, Asian and ethnic minority Londoners.
Electoral reform
  • A majority (59%, 64 organisations) of civil society respondents would like to see voting rights for all London residents, regardless of their nationality.
  • Significant numbers of civil society organisations believe that the introduction of automatic voter registration (48%) and voting rights for 16 and 17 years olds (46%), as well as electronic voting (44%) could increase political participation among Londoners.

18 October 2021