The photo ID you need to vote in UK elections

Voter ID at polling station
Voter ID at polling station

Since May 2023, voters across the UK have been asked to show a form of photographic ID at their local ballot box.

The requirement draws on the recommendations of a 2016 report by Lord Pickles, the former communities secretary, which warned there was a risk of “significant abuse” in the electoral system if people could vote under false pretences with little risk of detection.

As Labour continues to hold a lead of around 20 percentage points in the latest election opinion polls, The Telegraph sets out everything you need to know about voting rules ahead of the general election on Thursday.

Here are the acceptable forms of identification you can bring to vote for an election candidate.

What are the voter ID requirements?

Everyone wanting to vote in the UK must produce photo ID to take part in certain elections.

For voters in England, Scotland and Wales, this includes UK parliamentary elections, by-elections and recall petitions. Those in England also need their ID for local elections.

The requirement does not apply to Holyrood, Senedd or council elections in Scotland and Wales. People in Northern Ireland already needed photo ID to vote, so the rule change does not affect them.

Voters in both England and Wales also need ID for police and crime commissioner elections.

The rule has been applied in stages, beginning with the local elections in England on May 4 2023. This year’s general election will be the first time ID is required for a national poll.

The change marks a significant departure from the previous system in most of the UK, where voters only had to verbally confirm their name and address.

What types of ID are accepted?

Voters are required to show one form of photo ID at the polls, and it does not need to be in date so long as it is recognisable as the person at the ballot box.

However, it must be the original version – not a photocopy – and the name on the ID should be the same as it appears on the electoral register.

Acceptable forms of voter ID include:

  • 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 (including an Irish Passport Card)

  • Full or provisional driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state

  • A Blue Badge

  • Any identity card bearing the Pass (Proof of Age Standards Scheme) hologram

Any of the following travel passes:

  • Older person’s bus pass funded by the Government

  • Disabled person’s bus pass funded by the Government

  • Oyster 60+ card funded by the Government

  • Freedom pass

  • Scottish national entitlement card issued for the purpose of concessionary travel (including a 60+, disabled or under 22s bus pass)

  • 60 and over Welsh concessionary travel card

  • 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

Any of these government-issued documents:

  • Biometric immigration document

  • Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)

  • National identity card issued by an EEA state

  • Electoral identity card issued in Northern Ireland

  • Voter authority certificate

  • Anonymous elector’s document

Do the rules apply to postal votes?

No. You do not need to have any form of photo ID to vote by post.

The deadline to apply for a postal vote was 5pm on June 19 in England, Scotland and Wales, with June 15 the limit in Northern Ireland.

However, those who applied on time were asked to provide your National Insurance (NI) number to verify their identity. If you were not able to do this, you will need to explain why.

Those who registered in time will automatically be sent their postal ballot and are advised to fill out the forms and post them back for free as soon as they can.

There is no formal deadline for this but leaving it too close to polling day may mean your vote could not be delivered in time to be counted.

How can I get a voter ID card?

The deadline to apply for a VAC passed on June 26 at 5pm.

Those who applied on time will receive a voter authority certificate (VAC) either online or by post. To complete the application, a recent digital photo of yourself and your NI number was required.

For those without an NI number, it was possible to provide alternative documents as proof of identity, such as a birth certificate, a bank statement or utility bill.

What if I do not have a valid ID?

Anyone without a form of ID that fits the requirements was still able to apply for a VAC, but must have done so before the 5pm deadline on June 26.

This is not a substitute to registering for vote, which must have been done in advance of any application.

Why was voter ID introduced?

The aim was to stamp out voter fraud by forcing people to prove their identity at the polls.

In his Government-commissioned report, Lord Pickles warned that the authorities were in a “state of denial” and “turning a blind eye” to the problem of electoral fraud.

Why is voter ID so controversial?

The Government has said the change is necessary to curb the “inexcusable potential” for “stealing someone’s vote” by simply quoting their name and address at the ballot box.

However, critics say actual claims of electoral fraud are very rare in the UK.

In 2019, the last general election year, there were only 33 allegations of impersonation at the polling station out of more than 58 million votes cast, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

Opponents of the rule have also warned it will make it more difficult for certain people to vote, including the disabled, transgender and non-binary people, and black and ethnic minority groups.