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Elections Act 2022 - what you need to know

The Elections Act 2022 will make big changes to the way elections are run. One of the biggest changes is that you'll need to show ID (like a passport or driving licence) when you go to vote at a polling station.

Not all of the changes have been announced yet, so this page is a summary of what we know so far. We'll update it when we know more. We expect that changes will be announced throughout 2022 and 2023, and the first changes will come into force for the elections in May 2023.

You can find out more about the Elections Act 2022 on GOV.UK.

Voter identification

The changes you'll see

You'll have to show an official form of photo identification (ID) when you arrive at a polling station to vote. This means something like a passport or a driving licence. It must have a photograph of you on.

If you do not have an official form of photo ID, you can apply for a free Voter Identity Card from January 2023. Once applications for the Voter Identity Card are open, you'll find the link on this page.

When the changes come into force

These changes will come into force from the May 2023 elections.

Accessibility at polling stations

The changes you'll see

Voters with disabilities will be given extra support at polling stations.

Anyone over the age of 18 will be able accompany a disabled voter at a polling station.

When the changes come into force

These changes will come into force from the May 2023 elections.

Absent voting

Absent voting lets you vote in an election even if you can't get to the polling station - for example, you might be at work or on holiday on polling day, or you might have a medical condition or disability which means you'll find it hard to get to the polling station.

There are two types of absent voting - postal voting and proxy voting.

If you vote by post, your voting card will be sent to you, and you'll fill it in and send it back by post. You can find out more about postal voting on GOV.UK.

If you vote by proxy, someone you trust will vote for you. You can find out more about proxy voting on GOV.UK.

The changes you'll see

If you're applying for an absent vote, you'll need to provide proof of your identity.

An online system will be set up which lets you apply for an absent vote online. You'll still need to provide proof of your identity.

The existing secrecy requirements will be extended to postal and proxy votes. You can find out more about the secrecy requirements on the Electoral Commission website.

Postal voting

If you vote by post, you'll have to apply again every 3 years. Currently you have to refresh your signature every 5 years.

Political parties and campaigners will be banned from handling postal votes.

If you're handing in postal votes at a polling station, you will only be allowed to hand in a maximum of 6.

Proxy voting

You will only be able to act as a proxy for up to 4 people. Of these, the maximum number who can be 'domestic electors' (voters living in the UK) is 2.

When the changes come into force

We expect that the online application service for absent votes will be available from July 2023.

We expect that the rules on secrecy and who can handle postal votes will come into force after the May 2023 elections, most likely in Autumn 2023.

The change to the three-yearly application process will be transitional (in other words, it will not affect everyone all at once), starting from January 2024.

We expect that the changes to handing in postal votes and the new proxy limit will come into force for elections in May 2024.

Rights of EU citizens

The changes you'll see

EU citizens will no longer automatically be entitled to register, vote, or stand for election.

These changes will apply to:

  • all local elections and referendums in England
  • elections for council and combined authority mayors
  • Police and Crime Commissioner elections

Two groups of EU citizens will keep these rights: 'qualifying EU citizens' and 'EU citizens with retained rights'.

Qualifying EU citizens

These are EU citizens who:

  • come from countries which have reciprocal agreements with the UK
    and
  • who have 'leave to remain' in the UK, or who do not need 'leave to remain' in the UK

Currently this means citizens from Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, and Spain.

A reciprocal agreement means that the same rules apply in both the UK and that country. For example, a Spanish citizen in the UK could vote or stand for election in the UK, and a UK citizen in Spain could vote or stand for election in Spain.

EU citizens with retained rights

These are EU citizens who were living in the UK before 1 January 2021 (in other words, before the UK left the EU).

When the changes come into force

We expect that the changes will come into force by spring 2024.

Overseas electors

The changes you'll see

The 15-year limit on voting for British citizens living abroad will end. Any British citizen previously registered to vote in the UK, or who previously lived in the UK, will be able to register to vote, regardless of how long they've lived abroad.

British citizens living abroad will be able to register to vote using the address where they were previously registered. If they were never registered to vote, they can register using the last UK address they lived at.

British citizens living abroad will no longer have to register as an overseas voter every year. Instead, they will have to register every 3 years.

When the changes come into force

We expect that the changes will come into force by May 2024.

First past the post

The changes you'll see

The voting system will be changed in all elections for:

  • local authority (council) mayors in England
  • combined authority mayors
  • Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales
  • the London mayor

The system will change from the 'supplementary vote system' to the 'simple majority voting system', also known as 'first past the post'.

What is the first past the post system?

In 'first past the post' voting, you only vote for one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. They do not have to get a certain number of votes, they just have to get more than any other candidate.

When the changes come into force

We expect that the changes will come into force by the May 2023 elections.