Elections Act 2022
AUTHOR: PETER STANYON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATORS
What every NALC member needs to know about the Elections Act 2022
With the new Elections Act gaining Royal Assent in April, significant changes will affect everyone involved at all levels of elections and referendums across England.
We know some local (parish and town) councils may not be fully aware of the impact the Elections Act will have or how tight the implementation timetable is.
What the Elections Act 2022 covers
The Elections Act 2022 received Royal Assent in April 2022 and will:
- Require voters to show photo ID at polling stations (currently planned from May 2023).
- Require Electoral Registration Officers to issue free voter identification documents to eligible residents without valid photo ID (process scheduled to commence from December 2022).
- Enable electors to apply online for an absent vote, with both online and paper applications requiring the applicant’s identity to be verified (expected from July 2023).
- Restrict the handling of postal votes, including limiting the number of postal votes an individual can hand in and restricting specific individuals from doing so (expected from May 2023).
- Require postal voters to reapply every three years (transitional arrangements in place from January 2024).
- Further limit the number of people someone may act as a proxy for (expected from May 2024).
- Extend election accessibility, including requiring ROs to take all reasonable steps to support voters with a disability in polling stations (expected from May 2023).
- Change voting and candidacy arrangements for EU voters (expected from June 2023).
- Scrap the ‘fifteen-year rule’ to allow all overseas British citizens to vote in UK Parliamentary elections, regardless of when they left the UK (expected from July 2023).
Many of these changes are due to be in force for your next ordinary parish elections. We have published a briefing note outlining essential information and other upcoming change you need to know about.
We have previously stressed to UK Government that the projected Elections Act implementation timelines are optimistic at best and undeliverable at worst, especially for a ‘no-fail’ service like elections.
On 11 July 2022, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to raise our concerns, as we believe it is no longer possible to successfully introduce Voter ID in May 2023.
With crucial policy details still to be confirmed, and secondary legislation yet to be published, we have asked for an urgent timetable review. It is imperative Voter ID works from the moment it is introduced:
- No elector must be disenfranchised, and all must have the information they need to cast their vote.
- Polling station staff need to be confident they understand and can implement new requirements in a consistent way.
- Returning Officers need sufficient time to make infrastructure amendments to deliver this significant change to current processes.
The current timetable threatens to disenfranchise voters and confuse candidates and campaigners. Through no fault of their own, Returning Officers and electoral professionals will struggle to deliver the trusted elections expected of them.
When your next elections are held, and whether you are a candidate or campaigner, keeping up to date with the Elections Act is a must.
About the AEA
Founded in 1987, the AEA is UK electoral administrators' professional and qualifications body. It is a non-governmental and non-partisan body with over 2,000 members employed by local authorities to provide electoral registration and election services. Eleven branches of the Association cover the United Kingdom.