Homeless Link
Printable version

How we vote is changing

Tim Crowley, Head of Digital Communications and Voter Engagement at the Electoral Commission, writes about a recent change to the law that impacts how we vote in some elections, and how people experiencing homelessness can meet this new requirement.

The UK Government has introduced a new law requiring people to show photo ID when voting in a polling station at some elections. This new requirement will apply for the first time at the local elections taking place across 230 areas of England on Thursday 4 May 2023.

The Electoral Commission has a duty to inform the public about changes to the electoral system, and so we’re working closely with organisations like Homeless Link to help raise awareness among groups who are more likely to be affected by this change in the law.

In this piece I’ll explain how to register to vote, including what to do if you don’t have a fixed address. I’ll also explain which forms of photo ID you can use to vote, and what to do if you still want to vote at a polling station, but don’t have one of these forms of ID.

While registering to vote and applying for free voter ID can be done fairly quickly online, we realise that people experiencing homelessness are likely to face additional barriers and may have questions about the process. There are measures in place to ensure that not having a fixed address doesn't prevent people from voting, so I'd encourage anyone that wants to take part to follow the steps outlines below.

How to register to vote

You need to be registered to vote before you can vote in elections. Registering is free and only takes a few minutes. If you’re not already registered, are no longer living at your former address, or have changed your name, you can register to vote online. You can also apply by completing a paper application form.

How to register to vote without a fixed address

If you’re living in temporary accommodation, such as a hostel, you may be able to register at that address, as long as you don’t have a permanent address somewhere else. If you’re homeless, or do not have a fixed address, you can still register to vote by filling in this form.

If you need any help with registering to vote, or need an application paper form, you can contact your local council. You can find their contact details by entering your post code here, or by calling the Electoral Commission’s freephone information line on 0800 328 0280. Your local homelessness service may also be able to help you register to vote.

Which forms of photo ID can be used to vote

You may already have an accepted form of photo ID. You can use any of the following:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence (including provisional license)
  • Blue badge
  • Certain concessionary travel cards
  • Identity card with PASS mark (Proof of Age Standards Scheme)
  • Biometric Immigration document
  • Defence identity card
  • Certain national identity cards

You can still use your ID after it has expired, so long as the photo is still a reasonable likeness of you. A full list of the accepted forms of photo ID can be found here.

What to do if you don’t have an accepted form of photo ID

If you don’t already have an accepted form of photo ID, or you’re not sure whether your photo ID still looks like you, you can apply for a free voter ID document, known as a Voter Authority Certificate. You can apply for this here. Homeless Link have produced a downloadable guide - see below.

Alternatively, you can complete a paper application form and send this to your local council.

If you need any help with applying for a Voter Authority Certificate or want to request an application form, contact your local council. You can find their contact details by entering your post code here, or by calling the Electoral Commission’s freephone information line on 0800 328 0280.

Other ways to vote

If you would prefer not to vote in person, you can apply to vote by post. You don’t need photo ID to vote by post. Alternatively, you can apply to vote by proxy. This means allowing someone you trust to vote on your behalf – this can be anyone over the age of 18 who is eligible to vote in the election you want to vote in. You don’t need photo ID to vote by proxy, though your proxy will have to show their ID when voting on your behalf at a polling station.

At the Electoral Commission, we’re working hard to support people who want to vote to do so in the way they want, whether that’s in person at a polling station, by post or by proxy. We recognise these changes may raise additional questions, or create additional barriers, for people experiencing homelessness. That’s why working with charities such as Homeless Link, St Mungo’s and Crisis to produce and share information on this new requirement is so important.

Find out more about the work of the Electoral Commission

Click here to download Homeless Link’s briefing on applying for a voter authority certificate

Channel website: http://www.homelesslink.org.uk

Original article link: https://homeless.org.uk/news/how-we-vote-is-changing/

Share this article

Latest News from
Homeless Link

Public Service Insights: Supporting The 6 Key Pillars Of Employee Wellbeing Through An Intranet