More than 1% of voters, half of whom appeared to be from minority ethnic backgrounds, were turned away from polling stations because of ID requirements at the local elections, according to a group of democracy observers.
Democracy Volunteers, a group of election observers, said it conducted snapshot surveys in 118 councils on 4 May.
The group said observers saw 1.2% of those attending polling stations turned away because they lacked the relevant ID, or were judged to not have it.
Of those turned away, 53% were identified by observers as appearing to be “non-white”. The group said its teams saw others allowed to vote despite not having ID.
The group, which sent 150 observers, said its staff generally formed teams of two or three, and attended 879 polling stations across all the regions of England.
It said these observers spent between 30 and 45 minutes at each location observing the process and then completed a survey for each polling station.
Earlier authorities admitted it would not be possible to accurately quantify how many voters lacking ID were turned away on 4 May. Charities and other groups have said more vulnerable groups of voters, including older people, transgender voters and those with disabilities, are disproportionately likely to lack the permitted ID.
Tom Brake, of Unlock Democracy, a campaign group for greater democratic participation, said: “This data confirms our prediction that as well as being damaging to our democracy, these unnecessary voter ID rules would be discriminatory too, having a particularly severe impact on ethnic minority voters.
“The whole concept is wrong in principle and the implementation has been a catalogue of chaos. Local authorities weren’t given the time or money to prepare properly in terms of raising awareness and training staff. There has been no plan to comprehensively gather robust data about the number of people refused a ballot, a task made particularly difficult by the use of so-called greeters outside of polling stations. And now we have an element of evidenced racial discrimination.”
Democracy Volunteers also said it found “family voting continues to be a challenge” in polling stations. Family voting is when members of the same group enter a booth together and have the opportunity to collude or for one person to direct the voting. Observers recorded it at 17% of polling stations, affecting 4.3% of the voters they saw.
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “It’s vital we keep our democracy secure, prevent the potential for voter fraud, and bring the rest of the UK in line with Northern Ireland, which has had photo identification to vote in elections since 2003.
“Extensive analysis of the data collected from polls is now being undertaken by the Electoral Commission and the government, with final reports set to be published later this year.”