The Elections Act 2022
The Act introduces voter photo identification for in-person voting to Great Britain for the first time
The Elections Act 2022 was granted Royal Assent and passed into law on 28 April 2022. The detail will be covered in secondary legislation which will be developed in the coming months. The new legislation will include absent voting rules, EU citizens' voting rights, accessibility, voter identification and 'votes for life' for overseas electors.
Voter identification and the Voter Card
Applications for a Voter Card
The Elections Act 2022 has introduced a new requirement for voters to show photographic identification before voting in person in a polling station.
In order for this new requirement to come into force, the government needs now to set out the details on how it will work in practice - this will be done in secondary legislation made over the coming months.
Voters will have the opportunity to apply for a free Voter Card if they do not have any prescribed photographic ID, such as a driving licence or passport. This will take place in good time ahead of voter identification first being required in polling stations. Applications for a Voter Card are not yet open; a public communications campaign will be run once the application service is live. This is predicted to be in January 2023.
In the meantime, we recommend voters checking to see if they have another form of photographic identification which will be accepted in polling stations - voters who already have one of these forms of identification (which includes expired identification, as long as the voter is still recognisable from the photograph) will not need to apply for a Voter Card.
The Voter Card will be for use solely for the purpose of voting and is not intended as either an identity card or a proof of age card.
Further details on the government's plans for voter identification and the Voter Card, as well as a list of accepted identifications, can be found in the government's voter identification policy statement.
Applications from overseas electors
The Elections Act 2022 brings in changes to the franchise for overseas electors. It is the first legislative step towards removing the 15-year limit on overseas electors being able to vote in UK Parliamentary elections and allowing British citizens overseas who were previously registered or previously resident in the UK to apply to register to vote.
The extended franchise is not yet in operation. Do not apply now if you have lived outside the UK for 15 years or over. In order to bring in this change, the government now needs to make a number of changes to regulations and set out the details of how the new franchise will operate in practice. This will be done via secondary legislation, which will be made over the coming months, following which applications will open to all British citizens previously registered or resident in the UK.
The government expects that the changes to the franchise for overseas electors will be in place ahead of polls in spring 2024.
Further details are available in the government's policy statement on overseas electors.
Government plans for communicating with overseas electors
Once the extended franchise is in place, a number of communications channels will be used to ensure that British citizens living abroad are aware of the extension of their voting rights, and how to apply to register to vote if they wish to. This will include specific communications activities targeting overseas residents who have been added to the franchise to raise awareness of their additional rights and of how to participate in future elections. The Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office will also provide information on the changes when relevant via their 'living in' guide.
Postal and proxy votes - known as absent votes
In future, political parties and campaigners will be banned from handling postal votes. There will be a limit on the number of postal votes that a person can hand in at a polling station. Postal voters will be required to have their identity verified when applying to vote by post and must make a fresh application every three years, instead of the current five yearly signature refresh. Some of these new rules may in place from July 2023.
Keep up to date on the latest information at www.gov.uk