Voting and registering to vote

Changes to voting in elections

Changes to UK elections and the way we vote became law from 2023.

The changes affect elections for:

  • your local councillors
  • your Member of Parliament (MP)
  • the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex

Voter identification (ID)

The law requires you to show photo ID when you want to vote at a polling station. This could be an approved form of photo ID, such as a passport. Expired ID documents will be accepted if the photo is still a good likeness of you.

For a full list of approved forms of photo ID, go to GOV.UK: photo ID you'll need.

If you don't have an approved ID, you'll need to apply for a free 'Voter Authority Certificate' (VAC) – sometimes called a 'Voter Card' or 'Electoral Identification Document'. You can apply for a VAC either online or, if you live in the UK, by downloading, printing, completing and posting a form:

You'll need to show your approved photo ID or VAC at polling stations from May 2023 onwards.

For more details, read our guidance document below.

Postal votes and proxy votes

If you apply to vote by post (postal vote) or by appointing someone to vote for you (proxy vote), you'll need to provide either:

  • your National Insurance number
  • an identity document issued in the UK
  • other documents that the government can use to confirm your identity

You can apply online through the government's GOV.UK website:

You can also request a paper application form, or contact our Electoral Services team for help with your application.

You'll only be allowed to hand in postal votes at a polling station or the council's Town Hall for yourself and up to 5 other people. In total, you won't be able to hand in more than 6 postal votes.

When you hand in your postal votes you'll need to complete a form. This may ask for details such as your name, your address, whether you are handing in your own postal vote, the number of other postal votes you are handing in, the total number, and whether you are a campaigner. Political parties and campaigners will be banned from handling voters' postal votes.

If you request a permanent postal vote, you'll need to make a new application every 3 years.

You'll only be allowed to act as proxy for up to 4 people, of which no more than 2 can be based in the UK – that is, not overseas voters.

Support for people with a disability

There is now more support at polling stations for voters with disabilities. Voters with a disability can be assisted in future by anyone over the age of 18 years-old.

British citizens who live abroad

The government proposed that any British citizen living abroad who has previously lived in the UK, or been registered to vote in the UK, would have the right to vote at UK Parliamentary elections. Currently there is a 15-year limit.

British voters abroad would have to register every 3 years and refresh their application to vote by post or proxy at the same time. Currently overseas British voters must apply every year.

It's proposed that overseas voters will be able to register using an address either:

  • where they were previously registered
  • where they were last resident, even if they had not registered to vote while there

This change was expected to be in place for elections from May 2024.

EU citizens who live in the UK

The government proposed that EU citizens who were living in the UK before 1 January 2021 would keep their right to vote and stand in elections.

Those who have arrived in the UK since 1 January 2021 would have these rights only if they are citizens of an EU country with which the UK has agreed the same rights for UK citizens – that is, a country with which the UK has a 'reciprocal arrangement'.

A review of these arrangements will take place from 7 May 2024 and must be completed by 31 January 2025.

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex

The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex will be elected using a 'first past the post' system. That means the candidate who gets the most votes is the winner. You'll no longer be asked to make a second choice on the ballot paper.

More information

You can find out more about the proposals online at:

The Electoral Commission has created information packs for groups that may need more support to prepare for the voter ID requirement. These include:

  • older people
  • trans and non-binary people
  • Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
  • people experiencing homelessness
  • people who are registered to vote anonymously
  • blind and partially-sighted people
  • people who need information in an 'Easy Read' format
  • people who need information in British Sign Language (BSL)

You can download all these packs from Electoral Commission: Voter ID resources.