Voting at a polling station is changing

For the first time, voters intending to cast their ballot at a poll station for May’s local elections in England will be required to show photo ID. No one wants to see someone turned away because they don’t have the right ID. A Post Office PASS card is one of the several acceptable forms of ID and it’s important people check they have a required form of ID in order to be able to cast their vote with confidence.

By Elinor Hull, Identity Services Director

The ability to vote is a matter close to my heart. It’s something I’ve always exercised and remember vividly going with my mother to the local school hall aged 20 to vote in my first general election. For me, I think about all the women who were unable to vote previously. Some women were only given the right to vote in 1918. But it wasn’t until 1928 that the Equal Franchise Act was passed which gave all women equal voting rights. Deciding whether to vote is of course a matter of choice.

Photo ID required

The way we vote in person at elections is changing. For the first time, voters at the local elections taking place on Thursday 4 May across large parts of England will be required to show photo ID in order to cast their vote at the poll station. No one wants to see someone turned away because they don’t have the required form of ID with them in order to be able to vote.

Under the law, from October 2023 voters will be required to show photo ID at a polling station in order to be able to vote at a UK Parliamentary General Election.

The law states that there are several acceptable forms of ID that can be used to vote at a polling station. There is also the ability to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate if an individual doesn’t have any of the accepted forms of photo ID. They can apply online or by downloading a form, filling it in and sending it to their local council. 

If you have changed your name, it’s important to note that your ID must match your name on the electoral register. If it does not, you will need to register to vote again with your new details or you can take a document with you to vote that proves you’ve changed your name, for example, a marriage certificate.

Post Office PASS card

One of the acceptable forms of photo ID is a Post Office PASS card. Every month thousands of our customers come into their Post Office to apply for a passport or driver’s licence. For many, this is an expensive process if they have no intention to travel or drive.

We launched the Post Office PASS card, issued by CitizenCard, to enable access to a low-cost physical ID widely accepted throughout the UK for proof of age, domestic travel, applying for a new job or renting a home and for accessing services like transport, housing services and claiming benefits. The card is particularly popular amongst 18-24-year olds, accounting for over 50% of sales. The cost of the card is £15.

There is much political debate about what impact the requirement to show photo ID will have on turnout at these elections. The Electoral Commission launched a public awareness campaign at the start of this year to raise awareness of this change to voting at a polling station.

We know from sales of our own PASS card how popular it is amongst young people. We want to do what we can to raise awareness amongst young people in particular that they may already have an acceptable form of photo ID that’s in their wallet, that they use frequently, and they’ll be able to use it to vote at May’s elections.

For our customers who are using our branches to renew a passport or driving licence because it’s out of date, the Electoral Commission website says:

You can still use your photo ID if it's out of date, as long as it looks like you. The name on your ID should be the same name you used to register to vote.”

Remember that you do need to submit your old passport or driver’s licence alongside your renewal application. It can take up to several weeks for Her Majesty’s Passport Office or the DVLA to send you your new passport or driver’s licence. So please check that you have another form of acceptable ID if you’re planning to renew your passport or driver’s licence around the time these elections are taking place.

Of course you can’t actually vote unless you’re registered to vote. The deadline to register to vote for the local elections on Thursday 4 May is Monday 17 April 2023. You can apply to register to vote online.