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Elections Act

Find out what changes are coming for elections.

The Elections Act 2022 was granted Royal Assent and passed into law on 28th April 2022. This brings notable changes to the way elections will be run.

Please note: Below is a summary of what we know so far, which will be updated when we know more.

1. Photographic Identification (photo ID) at polling stations

What has changed

You must show accepted photo ID from the approved list when you go to a polling station to vote. This includes a passport or driving license. Any documents which do not appear on the list cannot be accepted. 

If you do not have any accepted photo ID, visit: Apply for photo ID to vote (GOV.UK). Note: This is also called a 'Voter Authority Certificate'.

For more details, please see: Voter Identification.

2. EU citizens' voting and candidacy rights

What will change

EU citizens will no longer have an automatic right to register, vote or stand for election.

Two groups will keep their rights:

  1. Qualifying EU citizens

    These are citizens from countries with reciprocal agreements (at this time these are Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain), who have:

    • 'Leave to Remain' in the UK;
    • or who do not need it.
  2. EU citizens with retained rights

    Those EU citizens that lived in the UK before 1st January 2021. (The date the UK left the EU.)

These changes will apply to:

  • All local elections and referendums in England.
  • Mayor of London and London Assembly elections.

These changes are expected to come into force on 7th May 2024.

3. Postal and proxy voting

Absent voting allows you to vote if you cannot do it in person at the polling station. For example:

  • You might be on holiday;
  • at work;
  • have a medical condition or disability that stops you from going to the polling station;
  • or live overseas.

There are two types of absent voting:

  1. Postal voting

    After you submit your completed application:

    • A pack that includes your ballot paper will be sent to you by post.
    • You will be asked to return this by a set date. It can then be included in the count of votes.
  2. Proxy voting

    You can appoint someone you to trust to vote on your behalf. Once appointed they will vote at the polling station at which you would normally vote at. They must show their own accepted photo ID.

What has changed

  • You have the option to apply for a postal or proxy vote via a new central government online system.
  • You must verify your identity when you apply for an absent vote. To do this, you must give your National Insurance Number when you apply online or via paper forms.

Postal voting

  • Postal voters must reapply to vote by post every three years. Electoral Services will inform electors when they need to reapply. 
  • Political parties and campaigners will be banned from handling postal vote packs.
  • There is a limit to how many electors someone can hand in postal vote packs for at polling stations or at Electoral Services. A person can hand in their own postal votes and the postal votes of up to five other people, and you must also complete a form when you hand them in. 

Proxy votes

You are only able to act as a proxy for:

  • Up to two people living in the UK;
  • or at most four people, where two live in the UK and two are either overseas or service voters.

When this will happen

  • The online service to apply for an absent vote launched in October 2023. 
  • A three yearly reapplication process for postal voters began in October 2023. Electoral Services will contact you when you need to re-apply.
  • The secrecy rules  and limits on handling postal votes will affect elections held in May 2024.

4. Accessibility at polling stations

What has changed

  • Extra support is provided to voters with disabilities when voting in person at a polling station.
  • A disabled voter can be accompanied by anyone over the age of 18 at a polling station.
  • If you need support at the polling station, please Contact electoral services.

5. Extended voting rights for British citizens who live abroad

What will change

The 15-year limit on voting for British citizens living abroad will be removed.

  • British citizens will be able to register as an overseas elector in the constituency where they were most recently either:
    • registered to vote;
    • or living in the UK, if they were never registered to vote.
  • Those that live abroad must renew their registration and reapply for their proxy or postal vote every three years.
  • These changes came into force on 16th January 2024.

British citizens living abroad who are now able to register to vote can do so by visiting Register to vote (GOV.UK). 

You will be asked to provide:

  • Your National Insurance number.
  • If you still have one, your British passport details (even if it has expired).
  • If you were previously registered to vote in the UK, the address and time where you were last registered.
  • If you were never previously registered to vote in the UK, the address and time you last lived in the UK .

Overseas electors are encouraged to apply to register to vote well in advance of the next general election, and to apply for absent voting arrangements as early as possible. 

Postal votes are despatched two weeks before polling day and we cannot guarantee domestic or international postal services, you may therefore wish to consider applying for a proxy vote instead.

For more information, visit: How to vote.

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