The new U.K. voter ID rules explained

The new U.K. voter ID rules explained

By: pallavi sethi&
April 24 2023

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The new U.K. voter ID rules explained

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On May 4, 2023, England will hold elections for most local councils and some directly elected Mayors. Northern Ireland's local elections will happen on May 18. There will be no elections in Greater London and other parts of England, including North Yorkshire, Dorset, and Cornwall. 

In April 2022, the U.K. government passed the Elections Act 2022, which incorporates a new rule requiring voters in Great Britain to present photo identification (ID) at polling stations to verify their identity. Previously, only Northern Ireland required photographic identification at polling stations. With the new rule, those without a photo ID can only vote by post. This applies to the May local elections, Police and Crime Commissioner elections, U.K. parliamentary by-elections, Recall petitions, and the U.K. General elections in October 2023. However, there has been widespread confusion about what constitutes a valid photo ID. 

Logically Facts has created a guide that answers common questions about voter IDs in the upcoming local government elections in England.

How can I vote in the May local elections? 

Eligible voters must have registered to vote in the local elections. The registration deadline for the local elections in England was April 17, 2023. On election day, you must show a valid photo ID to cast your vote.

What are the different ways of voting?

In the U.K., there are three ways to cast your vote:

In person 

You can go to a polling station to vote between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on election day. You will receive a polling card containing your polling station a few weeks before the election. You can still vote if you have misplaced your polling card by giving your name and address to the staff at the polling station. People with disabilities can contact their local Electoral Registration Office (ERO) to find out about accessibility options at the station.

By post

If you can't go to the polling station, you can send your vote by post. You will need a postal pack, including the ballot paper and postal voting statement. For this, you must fill out a postal vote application form and return it to your local ERO. Once you've received the pack, mark your ballot, sign a statement, and post these back to the ERO. All postal votes must reach the required location before 10 p.m. on May 4, 2023. However, if it's too late, you can carry your ballot pack to your council's election office on polling day. You don’t need to show a photo ID card while submitting your ballot in person. The application deadline for a postal vote in England was April 18, 2023.

By proxy

If you're away on election day or cannot attend due to health and work reasons, you can ask someone already registered to vote on your behalf. To apply for a proxy vote, you must fill out a form and send it to your local ERO. The type of form depends on the reason for your absence. Once you've completed and sent the form, your nominated proxy will receive a polling card stating the place and time to vote. Your proxy can also choose to vote by post for you. The deadline to apply for proxy voting in England is 5 p.m. on April 25, 2023.

What are the accepted forms of photo ID in the England and Northern Ireland local elections?

Voters can show any one of the following IDs in the upcoming local elections:


Passport issued by the U.K., EEA countries, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Commonwealth countries (list here), or British Overseas Territories (list here)

Driving license

Driving license, including provisional license or blue badge issued by the U.K., EEA countries, Channel Islands, or Isle of Man

Travel card

  • Oyster 60+ cards, Older person’s bus pass, or Disabled person's bus pass funded by the U.K. government
  • Senior SmartPass, Blind Person's SmartPass, War Disablement SmartPass, 60+ SmartPass or Half Fare SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

Identity cards

  • Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (PASS card)
  • Biometric immigration document (BRP)
  • Defence Identity Card
  • National identity card issued by EEA countries
  • Electoral Identity Card issued by Northern Ireland


  • Voter Authority Certificate
  • Anonymous Elector's Document

Can I use an expired photo ID?

Yes, you can use an expired photo ID if the picture in the document matches your face. 

I have an 18+ Student Oyster photocard. Can I use it as my voter ID?

No, Oyster photocards are valid only for those above 60 years, as they must provide acceptable proof of identity, like a passport or birth certificate, to receive a 60+ Oyster photocard. In contrast, students can apply for an 18+ Oyster photocard through their active student enrolment ID without submitting any other form of accepted identity. Therefore, you cannot use the 18+ Student Oyster card or any other form of Oyster card as your voter ID.

I don't have a valid photo ID. Will I still be able to vote?

Yes. If you don't have an accepted form of photo ID, you can use a Voter Authority Certificate as proof of identity. You can apply for the certificate online or by post, and it's free of charge. Make sure to use the same name you used while registering to vote, and provide a recent photo (digital or physical, depending on the application method), address, date of birth, and National Insurance number. The deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate is 5 p.m. on April 25, 2023.

I don't have a National Insurance number. Can I still apply for a Voter Authority Certificate?

Yes. If you don't have a National Insurance number, you can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate using an alternative proof of identity, such as a birth certificate, utility bill, or bank statement. If you have none of these, you can ask someone who knows you to confirm your identity to the electoral services team. The person vouching for you must have an existing relationship with you and prove their identity to the electoral team. It is better to have someone confirm your identity who has known you for a lengthy period.

I'm using a postal ballot. Do I need a photo ID?

No. You don't need to provide a photo ID if you're voting by post.

Will I need to show my photo ID if I vote by proxy?

No. If you vote by proxy, your ID is not needed. However, the person voting on your behalf must show their ID.

I am registered as an anonymous elector. Will I need to show a photo ID? 

Yes, if you're registered as an anonymous voter, you need to apply for an Anonymous Elector's Document to use as your photo ID. Your local council will contact you about this. You must provide a recent photo, name, address, date of birth, and National Insurance number for the Anonymous Elector's Document. If you don't have a National Insurance number, you can use other documents like a birth certificate, bank statement, or utility bill. If necessary, you can ask someone to confirm your identity to the electoral services team. The application deadline for an anonymous elector is 5 p.m. on April 25, 2023.

Why was voter ID introduced?

The Conservative Party has long been committed to introducing proof of ID in the voting process. In its 2017 manifesto, the party vowed to "ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting" to "tackle every aspect of electoral fraud." This came after the Election Commission published a report on electoral fraud in 2014. Although the commission didn’t find widespread fraud, it found that a lack of photo ID requirement was an “actual and a perceived weakness.”In 2018, the Conservative government launched a series of voter ID pilot trials in five local authorities to test the scheme. The same year, voluntary voters in the local elections in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford, and Slough participated in the pilot project, where they presented a photo ID at polling stations. The same pledge was also part of the party's 2019 manifesto. In 2022, the government, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, passed the Elections Act 2022, which mandates the use of photo IDs when voting. The new rule remains controversial as critics have voiced concerns over the voter ID disenfranchising "thousands of people."  Although the Election Commission supports voter IDs, historical five-year data shows “no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud.”

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