Elections Act changes
The UK government is making changes to the UK electoral system. The Elections Act 2022 contains measures that affect:
- elections and the way we vote
- campaigning and the rules on campaign spending and funding
- parliamentary oversight of the Electoral Commission
This page contains important information about the changes introduced under the Act and how they affect electors in Tunbridge Wells.
The information on this page was last updated on Friday 3 November 2023. We will update this page again in January 2024 to outline the changes to postal vote handling that take effect for polls taking place on or after 2 May 2024.
Voters in England now need to show photo ID to vote at polling stations in some elections. This new requirement came into force from 4 May 2023.
This requirement applies to:
- local elections and by-elections
- Police and Crime Commissioner elections
- UK parliamentary by-elections
- recall petitions
From October 2023 this requirement now also applies to UK General elections.
If voters do not have accepted photo ID, they can apply for a free voter ID document, which is known as a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC).
A list of the accepted forms of photo ID and how to apply for a VAC can be found on our voter photo ID page.
Improving the accessibility of elections
In May 2023, changes were introduced which aim to provide greater flexibility and choice in how disabled voters are supported to vote at polling stations.
Disabled voters can now choose anyone who is over 18 to accompany them in the polling station to help them vote, including carers who may not themselves be eligible to vote at the election.
There has also been changes to the assistance available at polling stations. Returning Officers must now take all reasonable steps to provide support for disabled voters at polling stations. This will improve the range and quality of support available and speed up the process of providing additional support where needed.
Details about the support we offer to disabled voters can be found on our polling station accessibility page.
Changes to postal and proxy voting
Identity checking requirements
All absent vote applications (except for emergency proxy applications) made on or after 31 October 2023 must now contain a National Insurance number or a reason why one cannot be provided.
The personal identifiers contained on the application (name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number) must initially be verified against Department of Works and Pension (DWP) data.
Where an application fails to match with DWP data, electors will be required to provide documentary evidence to verify their identity. Where this is not possible, electors must submit an attestation to confirm their identity.
Online absent vote applications
From 31 October 2023 electors (except for anonymous electors) can now apply for the following absent vote types online or by paper application form:
- postal vote
- proxy vote for a particular election or referendum
- proxy application for definite or indefinite period for overseas and service electors
Our website has been updated and includes links to the online application service for postal and proxy applications:
Electors will not be able to apply for the following absent vote types online. Electors can continue to apply for these absent vote types using a paper application form:
- proxy postal application
- postal waiver application
- proxy application for definite or indefinite period due to disability
- proxy application for definite or indefinite period due to employment, service etc.
- emergency proxy application
Maximum period for absent vote applications
From 31 October 2023, a postal vote can be in place for:
- a particular poll (poll held on specific date)
- a definite period of not more than 3 years
- a maximum period of up to 3 years
Electors applying for a postal vote from 31 October 2023 onwards will only be able to hold their postal vote until the third 31 January following the date on which their application was granted. Different rules will apply to overseas electors. For further information on how these changes impact overseas electors, please contact the elections team by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For electors with a long-term postal vote (in place before 31 October 2023) there will be transitional arrangements. Existing domestic electors will be able to vote by post for relevant polls until 31 January 2026.
Proxy voters can continue to put in place a proxy arrangement for an indefinite period (subject to a three yearly eligibility check and five yearly signature refresh). However, all existing proxy voters who had an arrangement in place before 31 October 2023 must reapply and make a fresh application by 31 January 2024. We will start sending information to existing proxy voters about the need to reapply in early December 2023.
Changes to proxy voting limits
The number of people a person can act as proxy for has been restricted.
From 31 October 2023, a person is now not entitled to vote as proxy in any electoral area on behalf of more than four electors. Within the four electors, no more than two electors can be domestic electors. Domestic electors are those electors who are neither service voters nor overseas electors.
For any by-elections where the Notice of Election is published between 31 October 2023 and 30 January 2024, transitional provisions will be in place. Further information will be provided to candidates should this scenario arise.
What this means for you
For future election campaigns you may wish to direct electors to the postal vote application page on our website, rather than providing them with a paper application form. We have created a short web link which you could include in any campaign literature you send out. The short web link is:
As absent vote forms are not prescribed, political parties can continue to create their own forms for electors if they wish. However, you must ensure any forms provided after 31 October 2023 contain all the newly required information. For postal vote applications this includes:
- the elector's National Insurance number or reason it cannot be provided
- whether the request is for a particular poll, a definite period that does not exceed 3 years or for the maximum period of up to 3 years
Online postal vote applications allow electors to supply their previous name if they wish to help with DWP matching. While it is not a legal requirement for paper applications, it would be helpful to include this to allow for more efficient processing.
Paper absent vote application forms designed by the Electoral Commission are also available. These forms can be downloaded from the Electoral Commission website should you wish to supply these to electors:
- Electoral Commission postal vote application form (opens in a new window)
- Electoral Commission proxy vote application form (opens in a new window)
If you require any further information on the changes to postal and proxy voting, please contact the elections team by email to email@example.com.
Elections Act 2022 further information
Further information about the changes being introduced under the Elections Act 2022 can be found on the Electoral Commission and legislation.gov.uk websites.