Councils forced to buy 40,000 mirrors to put in polling stations as a result of voter ID laws

The Government is making councils buy 40,000 mirrors to put inside polling stations in order to comply with its own laws requiring voters to show ID, i can reveal.

Hugo Gye 

The new laws will make it obligatory for everyone who wishes to vote to show their face to a member of staff at the polling station so it can be checked against their passport, driving licence or another firm of identification.

A provision in the legislation designed to protect the sensibilities of people who cover their face for religious reasons states that each station must have an area set aside with a “privacy screen” and mirror, where voters can show their face in private and then assemble their headwear.

It has now emerged that this will involve the purchase of a new mirror for every one of the 40,000 polling stations in the UK ahead of the local elections scheduled for next May.

Minister Andrew Stephenson said in a response to a written parliamentary question: “We estimate that one mirror will need to be purchased for each polling station and assume that there are 40,000 polling stations based on the 2019 elections.”

The requirement was criticised by Labour and electoral campaigners. MP Luke Pollard, who obtained the response, said: “At a time when families are struggling to access public services, making councils buy 40,000 mirrors is a howling waste of public money. This Government cannot be trusted to look after taxpayers’ money.”

Darren Hughes, of the Electoral Reform Society, added: “This is yet another result of the Government’s warped priorities when it comes to our elections. Instead of encouraging more people to vote, they’re putting up barriers instead. Now, ministers find themselves faced with finding solutions to the problems their own ID policy has created for voters.

“It’s vital people’s needs are addressed when attending a polling station, but it’s not just the lack of mirrors and privacy booths that will deter voters but the unnecessary requirement to show photo ID instead.”

Ministers have previously estimated that the cost to taxpayers of buying new equipment to comply with the law will be a total of around £2m.

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We are implementing voter identification in a way that works for all voters, including those with protected characteristics. Money for any new equipment will be provided by central government.”