Were 99.75% of people able to cast their vote when voter ID was first introduced?

7 May 2024
What was claimed

At the May 2023 local elections 99.75% of people were able to cast their vote successfully.

Our verdict

That isn’t quite what the Electoral Commission’s analysis found. It said “at least 0.25%" of people who reached a registration desk in a polling station in May 2023 were unable to vote because of voter ID requirements, but warned 0.25% was an “underestimate” due to data quality issues and because some were reminded they needed ID before being included in the data. That suggests the true proportion able to cast their vote may have been less than 99.75%.

Experience from the last local elections was that 99.75% of people were able to cast their vote successfully.

After last week’s local, mayoral and police commissioner elections, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Guardian newspaper that in the May 2023 local elections “99.75% of people were able to cast their vote successfully”. 

This follows controversy over the requirement for voters in England and Wales to show ID at polling stations during local elections, as well as reports last week that some politicians were themselves caught out by the rules. 

But the 99.75% figure doesn’t seem to quite reflect official analysis by the Electoral Commission, the independent body that oversees elections in the UK. 

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What did the Electoral Commission find?

Last year’s local elections in England were the first in which voters needed to present photographic identification at polling stations in order to be issued a ballot paper and cast their vote, due to the passage of the Elections Act 2022

It’s not entirely clear how Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson arrived at the figure of 99.75%—we asked Downing Street but didn’t receive a response. However it appears to be based on analysis from the Electoral Commission which found “at least 0.25% of people who tried to vote at a polling station in May 2023 were not able to because of the ID requirement”. 

The Electoral Commission didn’t use the figure of 99.75% in its analysis, however. It appears that has been calculated by subtracting 0.25% from 100%, but without any caveat that the figure concerned was “at least 0.25%”.

Crucially, the Electoral Commission warned in its analysis that the 0.25% figure was “an underestimate”. This was partly due to “data quality issues”, it said, but also “because some people will have been reminded of the ID requirement before they could be recorded in the data”. 

The Electoral Commission told Full Fact that the only people recorded in this data were those who “reached the registration desk at polling stations”. 

Guidance issued by the Electoral Commission for May 2023’s elections said that polling station staff “could be stationed at the entrance of the polling station, to provide information to voters about the voting process”.

Therefore people who arrived at polling stations in May 2023 but were reminded by staff about voter ID requirements outside the polling station and subsequently left are not included in this data, and nor are people who left the polling station before reaching the registration desk. 

Given that the figure of 0.25% likely underestimates those who were caught out by the voter ID rules, the 99.75% is therefore a maximum, rather than an exact, figure, and the true proportion who were able to cast their vote may be less. 

It’s also worth noting that these figures relate only to voters who actually made it to polling stations. The Electoral Commission analysis also found that around 4% of non-voters said they didn’t vote because of the voter ID requirement. 

In a press release issued ahead of the local elections on 2 May 2024, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) also used the 99.75% figure, but specifically said it referred to “voters in the polling station”. However it too suggested that this was the proportion of voters who were able to cast their vote successfully, and did not provide any caveat or suggest that this was the maximum possible figure. 

We’ve asked DLUHC about this and will update our article if it responds. 

Since the introduction of legislation mandating voter ID, we’ve seen a number of claims circulating about voter ID and voter fraud. Misleading or unclear claims about voting and elections have the potential to affect people’s trust in the political process and how they choose to vote. We’ve written more about voter ID as part of the series of ‘prebunking’ articles Full Fact is publishing ahead of the general election. 

Image courtesy of secretlondon123.

Correction 7 May 2024

We’ve corrected two typos where we previously said the true proportion of voters who were “unable” to cast their vote may be less than 99.75%. We should have said—as is now above—that the true proportion of voters who were “able” to cast their vote may be less than 99.75%.

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After we published this fact check, we contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to request a correction regarding this claim.

We are waiting to hear back from them.

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