Discrimination / Voter ID

How does the new voter ID law affect my rights?

Disclaimer: this article is for general information in England and Wales. It’s not intended to be used as legal advice. For up to date information on Voter ID, see the Electoral Commission’s website. Last update: 01 May 2024.

Why do I need a photo ID to vote now?

The UK Parliament passed the Elections Act 2022 on 28 April 2022. This is the first time that voter identification for in-person voting has been required in Great Britain.

Voters in Great Britain must now show a form of photographic identification (photo ID) before being given their ballot paper in polling stations in certain elections.

You will be asked to show your ID once you arrive at the polling station. They will check that it is an accepted form of ID, and that it looks like you. There will be a private area if you want to have your ID viewed privately. This might be a separate room, or an area separated by a privacy screen. It depends on the polling station.

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When will I need to show photo ID?

From 4 May 2023, voters will need to show photo ID to vote in:

  • UK parliamentary by-elections and recall petitions
  • UK Parliament general elections
  • Local elections and referendums in England
  • Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales

The new requirement will not apply at:

  • Scottish Parliament
  • Welsh Senedd, or
  • Council elections in Scotland or Wales.

What ID can I use to vote?

You can use any of the following accepted forms of photo ID when voting at a polling station, including (but not limited to):

  • Passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state, or a Commonwealth country
  • A photo driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state (including a provisional driving licence)
  • A Blue Badge
  • Older Person’s Bus Pass
  • Disabled Person’s Bus Pass
  • Freedom Pass
  • Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)
  • Biometric immigration document
  • Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)
  • National identity card issued by an EEA state
  • Anonymous Elector’s Document

You can find the full list of accepted forms of photo ID here. If your photo ID is out of date, you can use it if it still looks like you.

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What’s a Voter Authority Certificate?

You can apply for a free voter ID document, a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC):

  • If you don’t have an accepted form of Voter ID
  • If  you’re not sure whether your photo ID still looks like you
  • If you don’t want to show your photo ID for another reason, such as recorded gender – the Voter Authority Certificate doesn’t record gender.

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How do I apply for a Voter Authority Certificate if I want one?

  • You must register to vote before you apply
  • You can apply online or by post – see the Electoral Commission’s advice on applying for a Voter Authority Certificate
  • Temporary Voter Authority Certificate: these are only valid for that specific election, referendum or recall petition. You might get one if you apply for a Voter Authority Certificate too close to polling day.
  • Renewal: Voter Authority Certificates do not have an expiration date. However, it’s recommended that you renew your certificate after 10 years.

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Voting by post or by proxy

  • Postal vote: You don’t need to show photo ID or a Voter Authority Certificate to vote by post. Your ID is checked in other ways, such as by verifying your signature and date of birth.
  • Proxy vote: this is where someone else votes on your behalf. This person must show their own photo ID. You won’t have to show yours.

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Anonymous Elector Documents

This is a document containing your elector number and photograph, following verification of your identity.

You need to apply for Anonymous Elector’s Document if you’re already registered to vote anonymously and want to vote in person.

You can then show this as a form of photo ID when you go to vote.

You will also need to produce your poll card when voting in person.

See the Electoral Commission’s guidance on applying for an Anonymous Elector’s Document.

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How might Voter IDs impact marginalised communities?

The Elections Act will stop people voting if they don’t have relevant photo ID with them. However, this impact is not going to be felt equally. People from communities that are already marginalised and under-represented by our political system are less likely to have relevant photo ID. Therefore, more members of these groups will be unable to vote under the Act. The Government’s own commissioned research showed that this includes:

  • people with severely limiting disabilities
  • people who are unemployed
  • people without qualifications
  • people who had never voted before

Academic research presented to the House of Commons, showed these changes may result in 1.1 million fewer voters at the next general election due to the photo ID requirement.

Voter Authority Certificates may not solve the problem of marginalised groups not having photo ID. This is because those who do not possess photo ID are also least likely to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.  Cabinet Office research found that:

  • 42% of respondents with no photo ID said that they would be unlikely or very unlikely to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate
  • 37% of respondents with non-recognisable photo ID said the same.

There can be many factors which stop certain groups from having other forms of ID. It seems likely that these same factors might also stop them from getting Voter Authority Certificates. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of registered, eligible voters who would have no way to vote at a polling station.

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Right to vote

The new Voter ID requirement might impact your ability to vote in future elections and referendums if you find it difficult to obtain a valid form of photo ID. Everybody should have the right to vote in a healthy democracy, regardless of political leaning or background.

The right to vote is fundamental. It is enshrined in law:  Article 3 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is separate from the European Union, so we still have ECHR rights after Brexit.

Any restrictions on the right to vote must be justified, proportionate, and non-discriminatory. Restrictions must also be exercised in a manner that is free, transparent, and respects the principles of pluralism, equality, and democracy. The Government’s could be violating human rights if its actions are found to be disproportionate.


The right to vote also includes the right to equal access to the ballot box, without discrimination in relation to race, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other factor. However, the new requirements might discriminate against younger people and ethnic minorities, who are less likely to have a valid form of photo ID.

  • Government-issued ID and discrimination: The new Voter ID requirements largely rely on government-issued ID. These may themselves be subject to bias and discrimination.
  • Difficult to get and expensive: Marginalised communities are much less likely to have relevant photo ID, and may find it difficult or costly to get. For example, Government figures show  that 76% of white people hold a full driving licence, but only 53% of black people do. It could be discrimination if a law requires a specific form of ID that is difficult or costly for certain groups to get.
  • ID favouring older people over younger: Bus passes or travel cards for older persons are accepted as ID, but not those for younger persons. This makes it harder for these groups to vote.

This could violate people’s right to equal access to vote and their right to be free from discrimination.

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Data protection and privacy

The Government will need to collect and process a significant amount of personal data from voters to implement Voter IDs. This includes your name, address, and date of birth.

There are potential problems regarding how local councils will collect, use and store your personal data.

Organisations that process personal data must do fairly, transparently and lawfully. This is a requirement of the UK’s data protection laws –the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.

Therefore, voters must be told how your personal data will be collected, used, and stored. Your rights to access and control your personal data must also be respected. See the Information Commissioner’s Office’s guidance on your data rights for more details.

Voter IDs and possible breaches of data protection law:

  • Risk of data breaches or unauthorised access to personal data. If personal data is not properly secured, unauthorised people could access it, hack it, or steal it. This could result in identity theft or other forms of harm to people.
  • Database creation: personal data in Voter ID systems could be used to create a database of voters that could be used for other reasons, like targeted advertising or political campaigning. This could potentially violate voters’ right to privacy and the having their personal data protected.

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