Boris Johnson turned away from polling station without proper ID

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Boris Johnson was turned away from his polling station in England on Thursday, as the former UK prime minister fell foul of voter identification rules he pushed for in government that have left some electors unable to cast their ballots.

Johnson was attempting to vote in South Oxfordshire in the election for the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner but had forgotten to bring an acceptable form of photo ID, said a person familiar with the matter. It is understood he later returned to vote successfully.

The former Tory prime minister was among a number of people who were caught out by the new rules, including former armed forces personnel whose veterans’ cards do not qualify as a valid form of voter identification.

Former army officer Adam Diver wrote on X that, having “spent 27 years in the Army”, he was “gutted” to be “turned away at the door” as he tried to vote in Lancashire as part of the local elections in England and Wales.

In response, veterans minister Johnny Mercer apologised on the social media site, writing: “I am sorry about this. The legislation on acceptable forms of ID came out before the veterans ID cards started coming out in January this year.

“I will do all I can to change it before the next one,” he added.

Downing Street later said it planned to make veterans’ ID cards a valid form of voter identification.

Mercer’s intervention came as fellow Conservative MP Tom Hunt said he had also been unable to vote in person after having misplaced the necessary ID, leaving him to find someone to vote as an emergency proxy.

The Ipswich MP wrote on X: “I do tend to be bad at losing stuff. I’m also very dyspraxic. Though I don’t want to blame this on everything it does make things challenging for me and I do my best but I do lose things and today it was my passport.”

Legislation introduced by Johnson in 2022 and brought in by Rishi Sunak’s government last year stipulates that every person must bring valid photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence, in order to cast a ballot in all local and general elections.

A voter authority certificate (VAC) is an acceptable form of ID in the absence of another approved document.

On Thursday people complained on social media of trying and failing to use their valid professional ID, of having no valid ID because their passport was being renewed, and of witnessing elderly people who were confused about the rules being sent home.

Opposition parties have criticised the policy, claiming it is likely to disproportionately affect voters who do not traditionally support the Conservatives. Under the new regime, older people can present travel cards as valid forms of ID, but younger people — who are more likely to vote for parties other than the Tories — cannot show their rail cards.

The Electoral Commission’s preliminary analysis of the policy’s impact found about 14,000 people were unable to vote in the local elections in May 2023 because of the new requirements — equivalent to roughly 0.25 per cent of the people who sought to cast a ballot.

But the elections watchdog said the policy had an outsized impact on lower-income individuals. Meanwhile the London Assembly in February said the capital had a “higher population” of some groups deemed less likely to meet the new requirements, “including ethnic minority voters and younger voters”.

Downing Street on Thursday said it had no concerns about voter ID more generally, adding: “We don’t want to see anyone turned away from polling stations. We want everyone to be able to vote.”

All voters in England and Wales were able to cast at least one vote on Thursday. More than 2,600 council seats are up for grabs, while mayors will be elected in London and 10 other areas outside the capital.

There are elections for police and crime commissioners, and there is a by-election in the parliamentary seat of Blackpool South.

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