Express & Star

Walsall councillors told Voter ID had no 'significant' impact on election turnout

The Voter ID factor had no “significant” impact in terms of putting people off from turning out at the Walsall local elections in May, councillors have been told.

The local election count at Walsall in 2023

Members of Walsall Council’s audit committee discussed the introduction of Voter Identification rules at this year’s ballot and what lessons were learned by the authority.

Statistics showed the total number of people who applied for a ballot paper but were not issued with one was 767 and, of those, 473 later returned with the necessary ID to be able to vote.

But Helen Dudson, electoral services manager, said the turnout was only around three per cent lower than the previous year’s ballot where voter ID was not in force.

The total number of votes cast in this year’s election was 48,713 – just 24.54 per cent of the population eligible to take part.

Walsall Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz said: “One of the things that was spoken about before the system was implemented was how many people would be put off from even coming along.

“So the turnout of 24.54 per cent, where does that stand on the average of turnouts for local elections?”

Helen Dudson said: “I compared it to last year and I think it is down by around three per cent so it is not significant. I did expect it to be more.

“I also expected us to have a higher uptake of postal votes because it would be putting people off polling stations.

“We didn’t particularly see a massive rise in postal vote applications either so it’s fairly comparable with previous years. It did not have the impact I expected.”

She added that the biggest reason people were turned away from polling stations was because they’d brought no ID with them.

A communications campaign, including adverts on bin wagons, will be undertaken to raise awareness of the requirement to bring ID to polling stations during elections.