What ID do I need to vote?

Check eligible ID & how to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate

Voters across the UK must show photo ID to vote at polling stations in some elections, including general elections, as well as the local and mayoral elections happening in England & Wales on 2 May. This guide explains what forms of ID are accepted, what to do if you don't have one and the deadlines to heed.

As Martin says: "Voting is one of the biggest consumer decisions any of us will ever make. It affects our pockets, environment, locality and quality of living. So it's important to vote, or you lose your right to whinge."

How do I register to vote?

While this guide's about voter ID, whether you have ID or not is a moot point if you've not registered to vote.

Registering is easy. Go to Gov.uk. It takes about five minutes or so, and you'll be asked for your date of birth, your national insurance number and possibly your passport number too. The electoral roll is updated by councils each month.

If you're in Northern Ireland and can't register online, go to The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland website and download a registration form. You'll need to post the printed form to the NI electoral office.

Registering to vote puts you on the electoral roll (a list of names and addresses of those who can vote in public elections) – and it can also help boost your credit rating. There's more info in the questions below, or scroll down for what ID is accepted when you vote.

The Prime Minister has said he expects to call a general election sometime in the second half of 2024. You'll need to register to vote in advance if you haven't already AND bring ID on the day.
 

On 2 May 2024 there are local, mayoral and Police & Crime Commissioner elections taking place across England & Wales. You'll need to be registered to vote already (the deadline was 11:59pm on 16 April) AND you'll need to bring ID on the day.

Quick questions on registering to vote and the electoral roll

  • Aren't households automatically registered to vote?

    It's a myth that all households are automatically registered to be able to cast their ballots in elections – signing up for council tax, for example, doesn't mean you're signed up to vote. It's entirely up to you to make sure you're signed up to the electoral roll (or register as it's often called).

    Each local authority is in charge of the electoral register for its own area. To see if you're already registered to vote, contact your local electoral registration office. You can get its contact details by going to The Electoral Commission and entering your postcode.

  • What if I want to vote by post or by proxy?

    If you prefer to make your vote by post, you must first be on the electoral roll and tell your local authority you want to vote this way at least 11 working days before an election day. Then – depending on the council – it will either direct you to a link where you can download the appropriate postal form to fill in and send off, or they will separately send you a postal voting slip to send back.

    There are slightly different deadlines for voting by proxy. Usually you'll need to apply at least six working days before an election or referendum in England, Scotland or Wales, or 14 working days prior in Northern Ireland. Or you can apply for an indefinite proxy vote at any time in the year, but you must be able to provide a valid reason why you'll need to vote in this way.

    See more on voting by post or by proxy below.

  • Is there just one electoral roll?

    No. There are actually two versions of the electoral roll you sign up to:

    • The full electoral register, which is used when you vote
    • The so-called open (or edited) register

    The open register is simply a public version of the electoral register. Anyone can buy it – even you could, if you wanted – but it's mostly used by companies. This is because, for a fee, firms are able to buy all the details on the open register – critically, the names and addresses – to use for marketing purposes. For example, this allows them to send flyers, promotional offers or tailored deals to your home address.

  • Will I be bombarded by junk mail if I register to vote?

    No, not if you don't want to. While you have to be on the electoral register in order to vote, and have a healthy credit score, there's no requirement for you to be on the open register. When signing up, simply make clear you only want to be listed on the full electoral register, and your details won't be shared with company marketing departments.

  • Will it affect my credit score if I opt out of the open register?

    No, because lenders use the full electoral register to check your personal details when you apply for credit – so you need to be on that. This is part of the credit check they do when seeking to score you, and that you give them permission to do when you agree to their terms and conditions (check out this tip and 28 others in our How to boost your credit score guide).

    Certain lenders may use the open register for further searches of your file. For example, they may do it if they wanted to offer you a credit limit increase. But don't assume because you've opted out you can't get more credit. If you contact your lender asking for a credit increase, you can give it further permission to credit check you again, and this will mean it'll check the full register. You don't need to be on the open register to get credit.

  • Are there any downsides to opting out of the open register?

    Sometimes lenders will use the edited register for ID purposes, for example if they were chasing debts left by someone who used to live in your house. If you're listed on the edited register at that address, they'd know not to send letters chasing the debt to your address. Or if you're looking to rent a property, a landlord may use it to check your identity.

    But, as we said, one of the main purposes of the open register is for marketing. Read more about how the open (or edited) register is used.

  • If I'm already on the open register, can I opt out?

    You can opt out of the open register online any time – and around half of the voting population already have.

    Alternatively, you can do so by contacting your local electoral registration office (England, Scotland and Wales) or The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland. The process should normally take a matter of days.

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Do I need to take ID to vote?

Previously, in England, Scotland and Wales, you didn't need to take anything with you when visiting a polling station to vote (the rules are different in Northern Ireland, where photo ID has been required since 2003). But now, voters will need to show photo ID to vote in person in these elections: 

  • UK general elections
  • UK Parliament by-elections
  • Local elections in England (including councils, mayors, the Greater London Authority and parishes)
  • Recall of MP petitions in England, Scotland and Wales
  • Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales
  • Neighbourhood planning referendums in England
  • Local authority referendums in England (including Council Tax increase referendums)

What types of photo ID are accepted?

There are lots of forms of ID you can take with you to vote, but if you don't have any of those listed below, you can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate (valid in England, Scotland and Wales) to use when voting in person at a polling station. Alternatively, you can apply to vote by post, which doesn't require photo ID.

These forms of photo ID are accepted when voting at a polling station:

  • Passport (issued by the UK, an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or a Commonwealth country)
  • Driving licence (issued by the UK, an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands, includes provisional driving licences)
  • PASS card (identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram)
  • Biometric residence permit
  • Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)
  • National identity card issued by the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • Blue Badge
  • Older Person’s Bus Pass
  • Disabled Person’s Bus Pass
  • Oyster 60+ Card
  • Freedom Pass
  • Scottish National Entitlement Card
  • 60 and Over Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
  • Northern Ireland Concessionary Travel Pass 
  • Disabled Person’s Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
  • Senior SmartPass (issued in Northern Ireland)
  • Registered Blind SmartPass or Blind Person’s SmartPass (issued in Northern Ireland)
  • War Disablement SmartPass (issued in Northern Ireland)
  • 60+ SmartPass (issued in Northern Ireland)
  • Half Fare SmartPass (issued in Northern Ireland)
  • Electoral Identity Card (issued in Northern Ireland)

What if my ID is out of date?

You can still use your photo ID if it's out of date, but the photo needs to look like you and the name must be the same name you registered with to vote.

No ID? How to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate

If you don't have a form of eligible photo ID, you can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate instead (excludes Northern Ireland).

Wednesday 24 April 2024, 5pm. This is the deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate in time for the 2 May elections.

To apply for a Voter Authority Certificate:

  • You need to be registered to vote. You'll be asked for your national insurance number (but you can still register if you don't have one). It should only take five minutes and you won't need to register again for future elections, unless you move house.

  • You'll need a recent digital photo of yourself and your national insurance number. If you don't have a national insurance number you'll need to use other documents to prove your identity, such as a birth certificate, bank statement and utility bill.

  • You can apply online or by post. If you apply by post, you'll need to print a form, fill it out and send it to your local Electoral Registration Office. 

It's worth noting, you can't use the Voter Authority Certificate as proof of ID for any other reason.

Know someone without internet access? Spread the word

If someone needs a Voter Authority Certificate, but doesn't have easy access to the internet, they can contact their local council for help. They may be able to apply in person or collect a paper form.

There's also an Electoral Commission helpline they can call on 0800 328 0280 with any questions.

Registered to vote anonymously? You can apply for an Anonymous Elector's Document

When you register to vote, your name appears on the electoral register. You can register to vote anonymously if you think your name and address being on the electoral register could affect your safety, or the safety of someone in your household.

If you're registered to vote anonymously and want to vote in person, you can apply for an Anonymous Elector's Document to use as ID. The Electoral Commission says you should apply as soon as possible in case your local council need to check any details with you. 

You DON'T need ID to vote by post or proxy

You can apply to vote by post or by proxy if you know you won't be able to get to a polling station on the day. You won't need to show ID in either case, though if you have a proxy vote, the person casting your vote will need to show their own ID.

The deadline to apply for a postal vote in time for the 2 May elections has now passed. You would've needed to apply by Wednesday 17 April 2024, 5pm.

How to apply for a postal vote

You can apply to vote by post if it's more convenient for you than visiting a polling station (you don't need to give a specific reason). Once you've registered, you'll be sent a postal vote ballot pack before the election.

To apply to vote by post in England, Scotland or Wales, you need to download, print and fill in the postal vote application form. You don't need to provide photo ID to vote by post, but there will be other identification checks, including verification of your signature and date of birth.

How to apply for a proxy vote

If you know you won’t be able to get to the polling station on polling day, you can ask someone you trust to vote for you. This is called a proxy vote and the person casting your vote is referred to as your proxy. They will need to show their own photo ID at the polling station, but won't need to show yours.

You can apply to vote by proxy either for a specific election (such as if you're going on holiday), or for the forseeable future (such as if you have a disability or work overseas).

You can also apply for an emergency proxy if you have a medical emergency, or if your photo ID is lost or stolen, and the deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate has passed. Applications can be made up to 5pm on polling day.

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