What are the new Voter ID requirements?
From this year, anyone wishing to vote in the UK will need to present a photo ID at the polls.
The new rule will be applied in stages, starting with England’s local elections on May 4, 2023.
From this date, photo ID is also required to stand in UK by-elections and recall petitions, as well as vote for Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales.
The mandate will then apply to the UK general election from October 2023.
However, there is no requirement to present photo ID to vote in local or devolved parliamentary elections in Scotland or Wales.
And the change will make no difference to voters in Northern Ireland, who have been required to show photo ID since 2003.
The change marks a significant departure from the current system in most of the UK, where voters need only verbally confirm their name and address in order to vote.
What types of IDs are accepted?
Voters only need to present one form of photo ID at the polls, and it doesn’t have to be dated – as long as it is identifiable as the person at the polls.
However, it must be the original, not a photocopy, and the name on the ID must be the same as the one on the electoral roll.
Acceptable forms of voter ID are:
- Passport issued by the UK, one of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA State or a Commonwealth country
- Full or provisional driving license issued by the UK, one of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or an EEA State
- A blue badge
- Any identity card with the Pass hologram (Proof of Age Standards Scheme).
Or one of the following travel passes:
- The elderly bus pass financed by the government
- Disabled bus pass financed by the government
- Oyster 60+ card funded by the government
- Freedom pass
- Scottish national rights card
- 60 and over Welsh concession travel card
- Travel map for disabled people in Wales
- Senior SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland
- Registered Blind SmartPass or SmartPass for the Blind, issued in Northern Ireland
- War Disability SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland
- 60+ SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland
- Half fare SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland
Or one of these government-issued documents:
- Biometric immigration document
- Department of Defense Form 90 (Defense Identity Card)
- National identity card issued by an EEA state
- Electoral identity card issued in Northern Ireland
- Voter Eligibility Certificate
- Anonymous voter document
Do the new rules apply to voting by mail?
No. You do not need to have a photo ID to vote by mail.
However, there are controls to ensure that this process is as robust as possible.
You will be asked to provide your date of birth and signature both when you sign up to vote by mail and when you return your voting packet, with the results checked to confirm your identity.
How do I get a voter pass?
You can request a free voter pass online or by mail. To complete one online appyou need a recent, digital passport photo of yourself and your BSN number.
You can still apply if you don’t have an NI number, but you will need to provide alternative documents as proof of identity, such as your birth certificate, bank statement or utility bill.
To apply by mail, you must complete a form and send it to your local voter registration office.
You will need the address where you are registered to vote, a recent photo of yourself and your NI number.
Again, other supporting documents are accepted, but their use may lengthen the application process.
The Voter Registration Office must receive your form no later than 5:00 PM, six business days before the election you wish to vote for.
You will need to complete a different form if you wish to apply by post and you are an overseas resident, military, civil servant or British Council employee.
What if I don’t have a valid ID?
Anyone without an ID that meets the new requirements can apply for a free Certificate of Voter Authority (VAC).
This is not a substitute for registering to vote, which must be done prior to each application.
Why is Voter ID being introduced?
The new legal requirement is designed to tackle potential voter fraud by preventing people from impersonating others at the polls.
The plans are based on the recommendations of a 2016 report by Sir Eric Pickles, the former Secretary of the Communities, who warned there was a risk of “significant abuse” of the electoral system if people could vote under false pretenses with little risk of discovery.
Why is Voter ID so controversial?
The government has said the change is necessary to curb the “unforgivable potential” to “steal someone’s vote” simply by putting their name and address in the ballot box.
But critics have pointed out that actual claims of electoral fraud are very rare in the UK.
According to the Electoral Reform Society, in 2019, of more than 58 million votes cast, there were only 33 allegations of impersonation at the polls.
Opponents of the new mandate have also warned that it will make it more difficult for certain people to have their say, including the disabled, transgender and non-binary voters, and black and minority ethnic groups.
Across the UK, it is estimated that nearly two million adults do not have any ID that meets the new requirements.
But Lee Rowley, the local government minister, has denied that the plan amounts to “some form of oppression”.