Elections Act 2022

Implications for voters, candidates, and political parties

A press notice on Royal Assent of the Act was published on gov.uk on 28 April, and the House of Commons Library has updated its briefing on the passage of the Act. Much of the detail for implementation of the Elections Act will be set out in secondary legislation, which was made over the course of 2022/23 now that the primary legislation has received Royal Assent.

Significant changes have been introduced by this legislation which include:

Voter Identification

  • Electors needing to show an approved form of photo identity before voting in a polling station, the ID does not have to be valid provided the likeness is still true.
  • Anyone without suitable photo identification, such as a passport, driving licence or national bus pass, will be able to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC) from January 2023.
  • Will be in force from the May 2023 elections

Accessibility at polling stations

  • Additional support will be provided to voters with disabilities at polling stations.
  • Voters with a disability can be assisted by anyone in future over the age of 18.
  • Will be in force from the May 2023 elections

Absent voting - postal and proxy voting

  • Political parties and campaigners banned from handling postal votes.
  • There will be a limit of 6 postal votes a person can hand in at a polling station.
  • Postal voters will need to make a fresh application every 3 years, instead of the 5-yearly signature refresh.
  • Electors will only be allowed to act as proxy for up to 4 people, of which no more than 2 can be "domestic electors" - i.e., not overseas voters.
  • Applications will require identity verification - both online and paper applications will include a requirement for the applicant's identity to be verified.
  • Secrecy and postal vote handling rules expected to be in place after May 2023 polls.
  • Change to the three yearly application process will be transitional, starting from January 2024
  • Postal vote application and new proxy limit expected after May 2024 polls.
  • Electors will be able to apply online for an absent vote.
  • The online application service is estimated to be available from July 2023

EU Citizens' Voting and Candidacy Rights (EUVCR)

The EUVCR provisions have taken effect from 7 May 2024.

Voting Rights

In England the general right of European Union citizens to register, vote, and stand in UK elections which use the local election franchise will be removed.

Two groups of EU citizens will retain their voting and candidacy rights:

  • 'Qualifying EU citizens' - citizens of EU countries which have a reciprocal agreement with the UK Government, currently Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
  • 'EU citizens with retained rights' - EU citizens from any other EU country who were already legally resident in the UK before 31 December 2020.

This change will not affect the rights of citizens from Ireland, Malta or Cyprus.

We are required to identify EU citizens who should have their eligibility reviewed as part of an Eligibility Confirmation and Review (ECR) process. We will write to electors who are 'Qualifying EU citizens' and 'EU citizens with retained rights', to inform them that they are eligible to remain registered and that they do not need to take any action.  Any EU citizen who does not meet the new eligibility criteria, will be removed from the electoral register.

There will also be a change to the application process in order to determine applications under the new eligibility criteria.

Candidacy Rights

The changes to candidacy rights for EU citizens has come into force from 7 May 2024; transitional arrangements will enable EU citizens elected to office before this date to remain in office for their full term.

After 7 May 2024, EU citizens standing as candidates will need to have been legally resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 (have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave) or be a citizen from an EU5 country (Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Denmark) in order to be eligible to stand as a candidate.

Overseas Electors

  • The arbitrary 15-year limit on British citizens living abroad is removed.
  • Overseas electors will be able to register at an address where they were previously registered OR even never registered, where they were last resident.
  • The registration period is extended from one year to three.
  • Expected to be in place by May 2024