Changes to postal and proxy voting – what you and your residents need to know

The absent voting system is changing, including new identity verification requirements on application, a new online application system, limits to how many voters a person can act as proxy for, and changes to the maximum period a voter can hold an postal vote.

Absent voting is when a voter votes by post or by appointing a proxy that votes on their behalf. Postal votes are available to anyone, while proxies are only available for specific reasons such as being away on polling day, being an overseas voter, having a medical condition or disability, being unable to vote due to military or other service, and specific emergency reasons.

What’s changing about absent vote applications?

The new rules that commenced on 31 October 2023 mean that in order to apply for an absent vote, applicants will need to provide a National Insurance Number (NiNo.) or a reason why they cannot provide one. Providing this information allows the application to be verified against the Department of Work and Pensions data.

At the same time, the Government has launched a new Online absent voting application system for most absent votes processes, including postal voting, proxy voting for a particular election or referendum, and proxy voting for a definite or indefinite period for overseas and service electors.

What absent vote processes can electors not apply for online?

The Online absent voting system will not be available for certain absent votes:

  • Anonymous voters
  • Proxy postal application
  • Postal waiver application
  • Proxy application for definite or indefinite period due to disability
  • Proxy application for definite or indefinite period due to employment, service etc.
  • Emergency proxy application.

What if the voter doesn’t want to apply for their absent vote online?

Paper application forms will be accepted for all absent voting processes and you can access information about these forms via your relevant local authority elections team. However, a NiNo. will still be required for paper applications.

What if the elector can’t provide a NiNo. or their data doesn’t match DWP data?

If an elector can’t provide a NiNo. or their data doesn’t match DWP data, the elector will be required to provide additional documentary evidence to verify their identity. Where this is not possible, electors must submit an attestation to confirm their identity.

How long can you hold a postal vote for following the changes?

The maximum length of time a voter can hold a postal vote changed from indefinitely to a maximum period of three years on 31 October 2023. Postal voters can still register to vote by post for a particular poll or for a shorter period of time, but they can no longer hold a postal vote for longer than three years.

Electors who applied for a postal vote after 31 October 2023 will only be able to hold their postal vote until the third January following the date their application was granted. 

What about overseas electors who have a postal vote?

Slightly different rules apply to overseas electors where their postal vote will be tried to their registration as an overseas elector, which will also be limited to a maximum of three years.

What if the elector was a registered postal voter before 31 October 2023?

For long-term postal voters there are transitional arrangement. These voters will be able to vote by post as usual until 31 January 2026.

What’s changing about proxy voting limits?

The number of people a person can act as proxy for has been restricted to no more than four electors, including no more than two domestic electors. Domestic electors are electors who are neither service nor overseas electors.