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Local elections in England on 4 May 2023 were the first in Great Britain to require voters to show any form of identification before being issued with a ballot paper.

A public awareness and campaign was launched by the Electoral Commission in January 2023. It ran through to the local elections in May 2023 (in England) and informed voters of the need to bring photo ID to polling stations and the availability of a new free type of voter ID for those without any other photo ID. Awareness of the need to bring voter ID increased from 23% in December 2022 to 92% in May 2023 (following the elections).

The Government allocated £4.75 million of additional funding to all local authorities with local elections in May 2023 to support communications about voter ID. 

Analysis of 2023 elections

Data was collected in polling stations on the number of people who were turned away. Polling station staff also recorded the number of people who later returned to vote successfully.

The Commission’s interim analysis found that awareness of the need to bring ID was high and that 0.25% of voters who tried to vote at a polling station in May 2023 were not able to because of the voter ID requirement, equivalent to about 14,000 people. It also found that around 4% of non-voters said they did not vote because of the ID requirement. There were concerns expressed about the completeness of the data being collected.

In its statutory report, produced in September 2023 the Commission confirmed its interim findings that some people found it harder than others to show accepted voter ID, including disabled people, younger voters, people from ethnic minority communities, and the unemployed.

The Commission and others have recommended the list of allowable ID be reviewed and consideration be giving to making the voter ID rules more accessible to the most affected groups. The Commission has said:

“It is crucial that improvements are made at the earliest opportunity, particularly given there are important elections that are due to be held during the next 18 months, to improve accessibility and support those people who do not have an accepted form of ID.”

Government response

The Government published its own evaluation in November 2023. At the same time it published its response to the Electoral Commission report.

The evaluation found the implementation of voter ID was “conducted efficiently with very few voters initially turned away” but those without accepted ID were much more likely to say that the voter ID rules made them less likely to vote. It also found more could be done on targeting audiences found to be less aware of the rules.

The Government response to the Electoral Commission rejected calls for additional types of ID to be added to the list.

Which elections use voter ID?

Voters need to show photo ID before being issued a ballot paper in polling stations at UK Parliament elections and at local elections in England, including parish and mayoral, and local referendums. Voters in polling stations in Police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales  also require photo ID.

The provisions for Great Britain were introduced by Elections Act 2022. They also apply to a proxy voter, someone voting in person on someone else’s behalf.

Voters in Northern Ireland have been required to show ID when voting in all elections in Northern Ireland since 1985, and photo ID since 2003.

These requirements to do not apply to devolved elections in Scotland and Wales. They are elections to the Scottish Parliament and Senedd Cymru and to local elections in Scotland and Wales.

What ID can you use?

Voters can use passports, full and provisional driving licences, Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) cards, Blue badges, and some concessionary travel cards. The full list is available on the Electoral Commission website: Accepted forms of photo ID.

People without an existing acceptable form of voter ID can apply online or by post for a free Voter Authority Certificate (VAC). The VAC will display the name and a passport style photo of a voter.

The ID used in a polling station must be original, but it does not matter if it is expired, as long as the photo is a good likeness.

Voters may request their ID is inspected in private.

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