Elections Act 2022 - changes to voting in elections

Changes to voting after the May 2023 elections

The following changes to voting will be introduced after the elections in May 2023.

The government will pass legislation for the following changes during 2023, which will come into force for any elections in 2024 onwards:

  • Absent voting, postal and proxy voting
  • European Union (EU) citizens' voting and candidacy rights
  • Overseas electors

Until the new legislation has been passed, the current arrangements for voter franchise will remain. This includes voting arrangements for European Union citizens and the current limitations of overseas electors permitted period for registering to vote.

Absent voting, postal and proxy voting

The absent voting, postal and proxy voting changes are as follows:

  • Political parties and campaigners banned from handling postal votes
  • The number of postal votes which a person can hand in at a polling station limited to 6
  • 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" (that is 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
  • Electors will be able to apply online for an absent vote

Changes to postal vote handling rules are expected to be in force for the May 2023 polls.

The online application service is estimated to be available from July 2023.

The change to the 3-yearly application process will be transitional, starting from January 2024.

Changes to postal vote applications and new proxy limits are expected to be in force for the May 2024 polls.

EU citizens – voting and candidacy rights

EU citizens will no longer automatically be entitled to register, vote, and stand for election.

The following 2 groups of EU citizens will retain their rights:

  • 'Qualifying EU citizens' from countries with reciprocal agreements, and who have leave, or do not require it, to remain in the UK – currently Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain
  • 'EU citizens with retained rights' who were resident in the UK before 1 January 2021 – that is before the UK left the EU

This applies to all local elections and referendums in England and to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

EU Citizens' Voting and Candidacy Rights changes are expected to be in force for the May 2024 polls.

Overseas electors

The overseas elector changes are as follows:

  • 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 1 year to 3 years

The overseas elector changes are expected to be in force for the May 2024 polls.