Voter ID: What are the requirements for voting in UK elections as rules are tightened?
Following the introduction of identification requirements for last month's local elections in England, the Government says these will be tightened even further for future polls.
By extending regulations to postal and proxy votes, ministers said on May 23 they wanted to "reduce the opportunity for individuals to exploit the absent voting process and steal votes”.
The new rules include anyone wanting to vote by post having to show proof of identification every three years. Anyone who requests to have someone else cast their ballot on their behalf will also have their identity checked.
A proxy voter can cast a maximum of four votes, with no more than two of those being for UK residents.
The tightening comes weeks after the UK’s local elections on May 4, when the Electoral Commission said that a quarter of people were unaware they needed photo ID to vote.
Up to 3.5 million people don’t have an existing photo ID. You must have already registered to vote to apply for voter ID.
To avoid getting caught out, find out below what forms of ID are valid. Furthermore, if you don’t have a valid ID, find out below how to apply for a voter authority certificate.
What are the requirements for voter ID?
As per new rules enforced from May 4, people in the UK need to show a photo ID to be able to vote in the following:
UK Parliament by-elections
local elections in England (including councils, mayors, the Greater London Authority and parishes)
recall of MP petitions in England, Scotland and Wales
Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales
neighbourhood planning referendums and business improvement district referendums in England
local authority referendums in England (including council tax increase referendums)
From October 2023, it will also apply to UK general elections.
What forms of voter ID are acceptable?
Many people will have a driving licence or a passport, which are both acceptable forms of ID. However, there are other forms of ID people can use.
The following forms of ID are acceptable:
a UK or Northern Ireland photocard driving licence (full or provisional)
a driving licence issued by the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands
a UK passport
a passport issued by the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or a Commonwealth country
a PASS card (National Proof of Age Standards Scheme)
a Blue Badge
a biometric residence permit (BRP)
a defence identity card (MoD form 90)
a national identity card issued by the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
a Northern Ireland electoral identity card
a voter authority certificate
an anonymous elector’s document
Travel passes are also acceptable forms of ID, including the following:
an older person’s bus pass
a disabled person’s bus pass
an Oyster 60+ card
a freedom pass
a Scottish national entitlement card (NEC)
a 60-and-over Welsh concessionary travel card
a disabled person’s Welsh concessionary travel card
a Northern Ireland concessionary travel pass
You can still use your ID to vote if it has expired. However, it still needs to look like you and bear your current legal name.
How can I register to vote?
You can register to vote online here.
When you apply, you’ll be asked for your National Insurance Number, but you can still register if you do not have one.
You can register to vote in England if you’re 16 or older and either a British citizen, an Irish or EU citizen living in the UK; a Commonwealth citizen who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission; or a citizen of another country living in Scotland or Wales who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission.
How can I get a photo identity card (or voter authority certificate)?
If you do not have an acceptable voter ID, you can apply for a voter authority certificate.
You can apply online, and you’ll need a recent, digital photo of yourself and your National Insurance Number. If you don’t know your National Insurance Number (you can find a lost one here), you can use something else to identify yourself, such as a birth certificate, bank statement or utility bill.
What have different parties said about voter ID?
Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Scott of Brybrook, announced the May 23 changes in the House of Lords with a written statement.
Part of this said: “Under these regulations, we are introducing appropriate safeguards to reduce the opportunity for individuals to exploit the absent voting process and steal votes. The new measures limit the total number of electors for whom a person may act as a proxy to four, of which no more than two can be for ‘domestic’ electors for all constituencies or electoral areas.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said in May 2023: “They [the Government] have pushed through a bill that is going to prevent certain groups, particularly young people, from voting.”
Alex Norris, the shadow elections minister, called voter ID “a solution in search of a problem”. He said the policy would deprive hundreds of thousands of people of their ability to vote.
“Will those people who were turned away by someone outside of a polling station who asked an individual if they have the ID, will they or will they not count as someone who has been denied a vote?” Mr Norris said.
The Electoral Reform Society has also opposed the system. It said it had witnessed "countless examples of people being denied their right to vote due to these new laws".