Voter ID - frequently asked questions
Why do I need to show photo ID to vote at a polling station?
The UK Government has introduced a requirement for voters to show photo ID when voting at a polling station. This new requirement will apply for the first time in England at the local elections on Thursday 4 May 2023.
What photo ID can I use at a polling station?
You can use any of the following:
- 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 (this includes 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
- Some other documents detailed on the Electoral Commission website.
I have a passport or photo driving licence but it’s out of date, can I use that?
You can still use your photo ID if it's out of date, as long as it looks like you.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.
The name on my ID is different to the one I am registered to vote with – can I still use it?
You can still use the photo ID but you will also need to provide further evidence of the change of name such as a marriage or civil partnership certificate, deed poll or decree absolute.
Can I take a photocopy or a photograph of my ID to the polling station?
No, the original document must be taken. A photocopy or an image of your ID will not be accepted.
What will happen if I go to the polling station without my photo ID? Will I still be able to vote?
If you do not take photo ID (or a Voter Authority Certificate) with you to the polling station, then you will not be able to vote. Even if the staff in the polling station know you, they cannot issue a ballot paper unless correct photo ID is shown to them. You can return later in the day with your photo ID to be able to vote. Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm.
What do I do if I don’t have any photographic ID?
Anyone who doesn’t have photographic ID will be able to apply for a free piece of photo ID called a Voter Authority Certificate which can be used to prove your identity in the polling station.
What is a Voter Authority Certificate?
A Voter Authority Certificate is a free document containing a photograph of the applicant, supplied by the Electoral Registration Officer. It allows any elector who does not have another suitable form of photographic ID (or does not wish to use it) to vote in person at a polling station in an election at which photographic ID is required.
Do all electors need a Voter Authority Certificate?
No. Electors who already hold a valid form of photographic ID will not need to apply for or use a Voter Authority Certificate, as they will be able to use their existing ID instead. However, owning one or more types of accepted photographic ID may still apply for a Voter Authority certificate. It could be that their existing ID does not contain an accurate likeness of the elector.
Other accepted forms of photographic ID in polling stations will include:
- A 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 driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or an EEA state
- A biometric immigration document
- An identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)
- Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)
- A Blue Badge
- A national identity card issued by an EEA state
- An Older Person’s Bus Pass
- A Disabled Person’s Bus Pass
- An Oyster 60+ Card
- A Freedom Pass
Electors voting by post are not affected by the requirement for photographic ID. Electors who do not wish to show photographic ID can apply for a postal vote in the normal way.
What do I need to provide to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate?
Any application for a Voter Authority Certificate must contain:
- your full name
- the address at which you are registered to vote (or have applied to be registered at), or in the case of special category electors, your present, correspondence or BFPO number address
- your date of birth
- your National Insurance Number
- a statement as to whether you consider it necessary to collect the Voter Authority Certificate in person instead of it being delivered to the relevant delivery address, and the reason for collection
- a declaration that the contents of the application are true, either by signature or some mark that shows that you have made the declaration
- the date of the application
Any application must also contain a suitable photograph of you, meeting the relevant size and resolution requirements.
How can I apply for a Voter Authority Certificate?
You can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate online via the application portal hosted on GOV.UK
What if I am unable to apply online?
If you are unable to apply online, there are other ways to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate. You can apply:
in person by visiting Sandwell Council House in Oldbury. We can assist you in applying online (you will need to provide your National Insurance Number) and can take a photograph of you. Your Voter Authority Certificate will then be posted to your home address.
you can get help with your application by going to a Sandwell library during office hours.
- if you cannot apply online, you can download and print out a form, fill it in and return it by post or in person with a printed photo. Please read the instructions on the form carefully and make sure you provide your National Insurance Number (or other identification if you don't have a National Insurance Number). Please return postal applications to Electoral Services, Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, B69 3DE.
What sort of photo do I need to provide? Is a selfie acceptable?
Photos must be passport style. They must be on a plain background, containing only your head/shoulders and be in colour.
Your eyes must be open (unless unable to due to a disability), your face must not be covered in any way and the photo must not be filtered or manipulated in any way. You must be facing forward, looking at the camera, with a plain expression and mouth closed (unless unable due to a disability).
You can take the photo yourself or get someone to take it for you. As long as the photo meets these requirements, it's not necessary to get a professional photo taken at a photo booth. Please do not take a photo of a photograph. Take a photo of yourself against a plain background.
I don’t have access to the internet, and I have no photo ID, what do I do?
You can come into Sandwell Council House in Oldbury, during our opening hours and someone will help you to get a free piece of photo ID called a Voter Authority Certificate that you can take with you when you vote at a polling station. Once you have applied, the Voter Authority Certificate will be posted to your home address.
If you do not wish to vote at a polling station, you can sign up to get a postal vote or proxy vote. Postal and proxy vote application forms can be sent to your home address for you to complete and return. Alternatively, they can be downloaded from our website. Find out how to apply for a postal vote. Find out how to apply for a proxy vote. Please be aware that anyone voting on your behalf (called a proxy vote) will need to show their own photographic ID.
We also have a Voter ID helpline you can ring on 0121 569 6999.
What is the deadline for applying for a Voter Authority Certificate?
The deadline for applying for a Voter Authority Certificate if you need one for the Local Elections on 4 May 2023, is 5pm on Tuesday 25 April 2023. – just over a week before the elections.
I’m not registered to vote, what do I do?
You can register to vote online. If you've moved house since you last voted, you must register at your new address.
You will need your National Insurance number and your date of birth - it only takes five minutes. f you've registered to vote in the past and you've received a polling card, you don't need to register again unless you have moved house.
I am not registered to vote, do I need to wait until I am registered, to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate?
You can register to vote and apply for a Voter Authority Certificate at the same time, however you must be registered to vote before a Voter Authority Certificate will be issued to you.
I have not received my Voter Authority Certificate in the post, can I apply for another one?
If you have successfully applied for a Voter Authority Certificate but have not received it, you may request a reprint within a month of the application being made.
If it is longer than a month since you first applied, you will need to submit a new application for a Voter Authority Certificate.
I am registered for a postal vote, is this way of voting changing?
There are no changes to the way you vote by post. If you are registered to vote by post, you will receive your ballot paper pack and vote in the same way.
I have applied for an emergency proxy do I still need to show photo ID?
If you have appointed someone to vote on your behalf at the polling station, the person going to the polling station on your behalf will need to show their own photo ID to vote.
Can I make an application over the phone?
Yes, if you have available all the information including a picture in the required format, staff can assist you with your application over the phone. We can only support applications over the phone if you have all the details required when you call. We will need a picture, together with your name, address, date of birth and national insurance number. Call the elections team on 0121 569 3244 and make sure you have all of the information we require, and the ability to email a digital photograph of yourself.
Can I use my Voter Authority Certificate as ID elsewhere?
You cannot use the Voter Authority Certificate as proof of identity for any other purpose than for voting.
It does not contain any other information (such as a date of birth or address) that would be found on many other forms of ID.
How long are Voter Authority Certificates valid for?
The Voter Authority Certificate does not have a specified validity period, but they have a recommended renewal date of 10 years from the date of issue.
Can Voter Authority Certificates be used in any polling station?
You can use a Voter Authority Certificate at any election which requires photographic ID to be shown in the polling station, in any local authority, including in elections that are not held within the local authority area in which the Voter Authority Certificate is issued.
When will I receive my Voter Authority Certificate?
Once your application has been successfully processed, the data is sent to a supplier appointed by the UK Government who will produce the document and then deliver it to you directly, first class by Royal Mail.
Your Voter Authority Certificate should be printed within one to two working days after your application has been successfully processed.
You can also request to collect your Voter Authority Certificate in person from Sandwell Council House, Oldbury.
I have lost my photo ID and the deadline to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate has passed, what can I do?
If you have lost your ID and the deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate has passed (5pm on Tuesday 25 April 2023), then you would need to apply for an emergency proxy application – the person you appoint to vote on your behalf would need to show their ID at the polling station. Please call the elections team on 0121 569 3244 to request an emergency proxy application form.
In order to be able to apply for an emergency proxy on these grounds, the acceptable photographic ID that you intended to use, including a Voter Authority Certificate, must have been lost, stolen, destroyed or damaged, and you must declare that you do not have access to another form of accepted photographic ID.
I want to help someone who doesn't speak English to understand the changes
I have a question or I need more help with applying for Voter ID.
If you have a question or you need more help with Voter ID, you can contact our elections team online via MySandwell.