What are the requirements for voting in the UK? Voter registration week begins in London

People in the UK now need a photo ID to be able to vote (Ethan Wilkinson / Unsplash)
People in the UK now need a photo ID to be able to vote (Ethan Wilkinson / Unsplash)

London Voter Registration Week begins today (Monday, September 18) as it is revealed a quarter of Londoners are still in the dark about how to have their say in elections.

The survey has revealed that one in four Londoners are completely unsure about new voter ID requirements imposed by the Government ahead of pivotal elections next year.

With London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan already facing a tight battle against the Tories next May, a new YouGov poll suggested the requirements will disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, younger, low-income and disabled voters.

“It’s a significant challenge,” Matteo Bergamini, founder of the voter education group Shout Out UK, told the Standard.

“These groups tend to be under-registered already and with this requirement to show valid ID, or apply for a Voter Authority Certificate, it adds an additional barrier.”

The Government says the vast majority of voters cast their ballot with ease at last May’s local elections, when the requirement to show officially sanctioned ID was introduced in England in the biggest change to in-person voting in 150 years.

The change was needed to combat possible voter impersonation, ministers said. Opponents stress there is barely any evidence of voter fraud in Britain, with just nine convictions out of tens of millions of ballots cast in the past five years.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Shout Out UK (SOUK) have since launched the fifth annual London Voter Registration Week to help under-represented and under-registered Londoners “access their right to vote” and learn about what they need to do to make their voices heard.

Local councils are among those promoting the week and looking at the “impact of the Elections Act (2022), especially the introduction of mandatory photo ID to vote.”

The Electoral Commission’s full report into the impact of photo Voter ID at the May 2023 elections found that “some voters, especially ethnic minority, disabled, young and low income, have found it harder to vote because of the new requirement to show an accepted photo ID at polling stations.”

The Government has previously said that ID requirements would be tightened even further for future polls.

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.

It is estimated 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".