FAQs on voter identification and awareness-raising webinar

The below questions have been taken from the question and answer session at the LGA webinar on voter identification.

Accurate as of 1 March 2023

Acceptable ID

What documents are acceptable for voting at polling stations?

The list of acceptable official documents can be found on the Electoral Commission’s voter ID webpage. The list includes international travel documents, driving and parking documents, local travel documents, any identity card bearing a Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) hologram and other government issues documents set out in legislation. Be aware not all PASS cards are individually listed, but PASS cards are accepted.

The name on the ID must match the name you used to register to vote or you can produce evidence (such as a marriage certificate) to demonstrate a name change, and the photo must be a good likeness of you.

Does the identification need to be in date?

Voters can still use their photo ID if it’s out of date, as long as it looks like them and the name on the ID is the same as the one they used to register to vote, or they can produce evidence (such as a marriage certificate) to demonstrate a name change.

Why are some photographic IDs not being accepted as voter ID?

Some forms of photographic identification were ruled out as acceptable voter ID because they did not satisfy the criteria for security. For example, work and student passes and some railcards, such as the 18+ Oyster card. This is because they do not have sufficiently secure application processes compared to other IDs, such as the 60+ Oyster card, which has a more rigorous process. However, NUS Totum+ student card is being accepted and any accredited PASS card bearing the PASS hologram are acceptable.

In addition, photocopies or pictures of identification saved on mobile phones will not be accepted as they are not the original ‘document’ as set out by the law, and as photo-editing software could be used to edit them with ease.

Will voters be able to vote at polling stations if they don’t bring an acceptable ID?

It is now a legal requirement to bring one of these forms of identification to be issued a ballot. Voters who attend the polling station with accepted ID will not be issued a ballot. However, they have the option of returning later with appropriate ID to vote.

What if the voter is known to polling staff, but don’t bring acceptable ID?

It is now a legal requirement to bring one of these forms of identification to be issued a ballot. Polling staff will not be able to issue the ballot without first assessing identity using one of the prescribed forms of identification.

Voter authority certificates

Who needs a voter authority certificate?

Voters who have identification from the accepted list of ID documents that is a good likeness and bears the same name they used to register to vote (or where they have evidence of a name change, such as a marriage certificate) should not need to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC). If not, they can apply for a free VAC to allow them to vote in person at the polling station.

How do voters apply for a voter authority certificate?

Voters can apply for a VAC through an online portal or by requesting a paper application from their local authority. They will need to already be registered to vote in the area, provide a recent photo of themselves and provide their national insurance number (or other information to allow for identity verification if they do not have their NINO).

How long will a voter authority certificate last for? And where are they valid?

Voter authority certificates are designed for use at polling stations only, but they will be valid at any polling station in Great Britain. They do not expire, but voters should remember to reapply with a new picture if the image on the certificate stops being a good likeness and the indicative timeframe for this is 10 years.

How many people have applied for the voter authority certificate?

Anyone can follow how many people have applied for a VAC through the Government's online dashboard of application data.

How many people do we expect to apply for the voter authority certificate?

According to Cabinet Office research in 2021, 98 per cent of the respondents had access to photo identification. So, it is anticipated that 2 per cent of eligible electors will not have access to photo ID. However, not everyone votes and others choose to vote via absent vote (and so do not need to produce ID) and so the number of VAC applications may not be as high as 2 per cent of the population who are eligible to vote.

Temporary voter authority certificates

What is the deadline for applying for a temporary voter authority certificate?

You cannot apply for a Temporary VAC. If the ERO thinks that the substantive VAC which has been issued will not be delivered to the applicant in time for them to vote in a pending poll, the ERO can decide to issue a Temporary VAC. This may be on the basis that it has not been received or that the ERO knows there are delivery issues.

However, an ERO can only issue a Temporary VAC where the applications was received before the deadline ahead of a pending poll (5.00pm on the sixth working day before the day of poll) and the substantive VAC was issued after that deadline and before 5.00pm on Polling day.

Where an application was both received and issued ahead of the deadline, the ERO cannot issue a Temporary VAC and an applicant would need to use an emergency proxy appointment in the event of non-delivery. Applications to appoint an emergency proxy can be made up to 5.00pm on polling day.

Who is allowed to sign a temporary voter authority certificate?

The temporary Certificate will be signed in order to validate it and protect against fraud. An ERO or their agent can sign a Temporary VAC. Their ‘agent’ is anyone they appoint for this purpose but will likely be an officer of the local authority (or, in Scotland, authorities) they act as ERO for.

Will electoral registration officers have to wet sign all temporary voter authority certificates? Or can the signature be electronic?

The law envisages a wet ink signature.

If someone requests a temporary VAC on polling day, will they collect it from council or the polling station? It is for the ERO to set the collection point.

Anonymous voters

What is the approximate percentage of anonymous voters who usually vote?

This data is not collated.

Voter ID at polling stations

Will presiding officers in polling stations record how many voters are refused the ballot because they do not have acceptable ID and how many return to vote later with appropriate ID?

Yes, presiding officers will be required to fill in the VID Evaluation Form to support the statutory evaluation of the voter ID policy at the first local election and the first two parliamentary general elections. After these elections, only the number of people refused a ballot will be collected.

Has any research been done to see how the voter ID requirement will affect how long it take to vote in polling stations?

No research has been carried out to assess how the voter ID requirement will affect how long it takes to vote in polling stations. This may however be looked into as part of the evaluation.

Funding provision of an additional poll clerk to deal with the identification requirement has been included for the first year of rollout and in subsequent General Election years.

Will there be guidance for polling staff and examples around the types of voter ID that is acceptable?

Yes – the Electoral Commission has produced guidance, including its Polling Station Handbook, and the AEA is also providing training on Voter ID to administrators. ROs will need to ensure that their polling station staff are effectively trained and prepared.

Postal and proxy voting

Do voters need voter identification to vote by post?

The new voter ID requirements are designed for in-person voting online. However, if voters use a proxy to vote, the proxy will need to bring their own identification – rather than the ID of the person they are voting on behalf of. Postal voters do not need to provide identification.

If voters take a postal vote to the polling station, do they need to bring identification?

No, voters bringing a postal into a polling station will not need to provide voter identification as the law was written in relation to who can be issued a ballot paper and vote in-person at a polling station.

Awareness-raising materials

How is the Electoral Commission letting residents know about voter ID requirements?

In early January, the Electoral Commission launched a national campaign to make voters aware of the new ID requirements. The campaign aims to make voters aware that they need to bring ID, inform them about acceptable forms of ID and direct them to apply for free voter ID if they do not possible approved ID.

The campaign will take place in two phases. The first is a mass awareness phase targeting all adults in England for six weeks from 8 January. The second phase is about local urgency and will target adults in areas with elections this year and will take place in four concentrated bursts, one every two weeks between 26 February and 4 May.

Local awareness raising efforts will also be key and the Electoral Commission has produced a range of general and targeted resource packs, including packs in a range of languages.

Where can I find the awareness-raising materials?

The Electoral Commission has produced a range of new awareness-raising materials, including partnership packs for councils and tailored to particular client groups who are believed to be less likely to have photo identification.

You can access their resources on their Voter ID campaign webpage.

What if I need a different translation of the resources?

The Electoral Commission will consider requests for additional translations on a case by case basis. If there is a particular language you think the Commission should include, please contact partners@electoralcommission.org.uk.

What about British Sign Language resources?

The Electoral Commission has worked in partnership with the British Deaf Association to produce BSL videos.

Will there be an easy read guide on applying for the voter authority certificate?

The Electoral Commission has worked in partnership with Mencap to produce information for voters in easy read. Will there be specific resources aimed at people who are not yet registered to vote?

The Electoral Commission has produced voter booklets for a range of audiences – for example people experiencing homelessness, and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Each voter booklet provides comprehensive information about how to register to vote, alongside information on new voter ID requirements. The Commission is working in partnership with civil society organisations to share information resources with under-registered groups, and would encourage local councils to disseminate these resources to known organisations who can help support people to register at the local level.

What support with awareness-raising will be available for areas that don’t have elections this year? Or for by-elections after May 2023?

Many of the resources developed by the Electoral Commission can be used in areas which aren’t holding elections in May 2023. The Electoral Commission will also consider requests from local councils to adapt existing resources for this purpose.

The Commission will support local councils throughout Great Britain to raise awareness of voter ID requirements in areas where UK Parliament by-elections take place after 4 May. The Commission is currently developing information resources specifically for local councils required to hold by-elections. The Commission will work closely with affected local councils, and is likely to invest in paid advertising at the local level to raise awareness.

The Commission will run a mass awareness advertising campaign ahead of the next UK Parliament general election, and ahead of future scheduled elections in Great Britain.

Will there be a 16:9 aspect ratio image available as part of the campaign materials?

The TV advert has been produced in 16:9 aspect ratio and is currently being broadcast on TV and Video On Demand. The Commission doesn’t usually make the 16:9 version of its adverts available, but please contact partners@electoralcommission.org.uk if you’d like to discuss.

Will there be another awareness-raising phase after May 2023?

The Commission will run a mass awareness advertising campaign ahead of the next UK Parliament general election, and ahead of future scheduled elections in Great Britain.