The government has passed a new act that will introduce changes to:
- the way electors will vote in polling stations
- how candidates and political parties can handle postal votes
- voting rights for European Union citizens and those British nationals who live outside of the UK
Information on the Act can be found at the Department of Levelling Up and Housing and Community: Greater protections for voters as government’s Elections Bill achieves Royal Assent (GOV.UK).
The Elections Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. The government will introduce the various parts in stages, the first changes will come into force for the 4 May 2023 local elections, when York will be holding full ward and parish elections.
Changes before May 2023
Only 2 changes will be in force for the City of York Council ward elections and parish elections on Thursday 4 May 2023:
Information about these changes will be included on poll cards, and the Electoral Commission will launch a publicity campaign to explain the changes in January 2023.
You will need to show an approved form of photo ID before voting in a polling station.
The following forms of photo ID can be accepted at polling stations:
- passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth country
- photographic driver’s licence (including provisional), issued by the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an European Economic Area (EEA) state
- EEA photographic ID Card
- UK Biometric Residence Permit
- an identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (PASS card)
- Blue Badge
- Oyster 60+ Card
- concessionary travel pass funded by HM Government or local authority, such as an older person's bus pass, disabled person's bus pass, or a Welsh or Northern Ireland travel card
If you don't have a suitable form of photo ID, you'll be able to apply for a free Voter Identity Card from January 2023. We'll share a link to the government application portal as soon as practical after one is made available.
Changes to voter identification will be in force from the May 2023 elections.
Accessibility at polling stations
Changes to accessibility at polling stations are as follows:
- additional support provided to voters with disabilities at polling stations
- voters with a disability can be assisted by anyone over the age of 18
Changes to accessibility at polling stations will be in force from the May 2023 elections.
Changes after May 2023
The government will pass legislation for the following changes during 2023, which will come into force for any elections in 2024 onwards:
Until the new legislation has been passed, the current arrangements for voter franchise will remain, that includes for European Union citizens and the current limitations of overseas electors permitted period for registering to vote.
Absent voting, postal and proxy voting
The absent voting, postal and proxy voting changes are as follows:
- political parties and campaigners banned from handling postal votes
- the number of postal votes which a person can hand in at a polling station limited to 6
- postal voters will need to make a fresh application every 3 years, instead of the 5-yearly signature refresh
- electors will only be allowed to act as proxy for up to 4 people, of which no more than 2 can be "domestic electors" (that is not overseas voters)
- applications will require identity verification - both online and paper applications will include a requirement for the applicant's identity to be verified
- electors will be able to apply online for an absent vote
Changes to postal vote handling rules are expected to be in force for the May 2023 polls.
The online application service is estimated to be available from July 2023.
The change to the 3-yearly application process will be transitional, starting from January 2024.
Changes to postal vote application and new proxy limits are expected to be in force for the May 2024 polls.
EU citizens' voting and candidacy rights
EU citizens will no longer automatically be entitled to register, vote, and stand for election.
The following 2 groups of EU citizens will retain their rights:
- 'qualifying EU citizens' from countries with reciprocal agreements, and who have leave, or do not require it, to remain in the UK - currently Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain
- 'EU citizens with retained rights' who were resident in the UK before 1 January 2021 - that is before the UK left the EU
This applies to all local elections and referendums in England and to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.
EU Citizens' Voting and Candidacy Rights changes are expected to be in force for the May 2024 polls.
The overseas electors changes are as follows:
- the arbitrary 15-year limit on British citizens living abroad is removed
- overseas electors will be able to register at an address where they were previously registered, or even never registered, where they were last resident
- the registration period is extended from 1 year to 3 years
The overseas electors changes are expected to be in force for the May 2024 polls.