How to Keep Your Vote

In general terms, if you are a UK citizen, you can vote when you’re 18 or over. In addition, if you live in Scotland or Wales, you may be able to vote in some elections when you’re 16 or over.

However, you do not need to wait until voting age to get on the register. In England you can register at 16. In Scotland at 14.

There is a good basic guide to the registration process at the official government site. Here, you will find out more about registering, as well as have the opportunity to register online.

Full register and open register

There are two versions of the electoral register. Both include individual names and addresses.

However, the full version of the register is only used for:
– elections;
– preventing and detecting crime (for example, fraud);
– calling people for jury service;
– checking credit applications.

The open register is an extract of the Electoral Register, but is not used for elections. It can be bought by any person, company or organisation.

For example, it is used by businesses and charities to confirm name and address details. Your name and address will be included in the open register unless you ask for them to be removed.

Removing your details from the open register does not affect your right to vote.

To be removed from the open register, contact your local Elections Returning Officer.

In addition, if you feel that your position is more complicated, you may get yourself added to the register by contacting the Returning Officer at your local council.

If you submitted a valid application to register to vote up to 12 working days before polling day, you’ll be able to vote at that election.

It is possible to register anonymously for safety reasons, if you have concerns about your name and address appearing on the electoral register. If you wish to register in this way, further details are available on gov.uk. However, for such a registration to be accepted, you would need to provide a court document or an attestation as evidence that your safety or the safety of someone in your household would be put at risk 

The current list of documents that you can show to prove your entitlement to vote is set out on our page about voter ID law. It is also detailed on many official (and unofficial) sites online.

  • Do you have one of these documents?
  • Are you confident that the photo id on the document is a reasonable likeness? (if in doubt, ask a friend)

If you do not have a valid form of ID to hand, can you remedy this simply – by applying for a passport or driving licence? If not, never fear! There is always the Voter Authority Certificate (VAC).

Cost

It’s free! (Apart from the time spent dealing with the paperwork and getting a photo in an approved format. Also, the cost of the photo).


Information required

You will need to provide:

  • name (the same as that you used when registering to vote);
  • address;
  • date of birth;
  • National Insurance number.

Note, however, if you have transitioned, your National Insurance number may be hidden from other government systems, such as the online voter registration system. If this is the case you will need to contact the Returning Officer at your local council.

You do not need to provide your gender, and VACs do not carry a gender marker.

You will also need to submit a photo. The requirements for this are broadly similar to those for a passport photo (but check!).

Photo Requirements

The photo must be a “true likeness”, with the subject:
– facing forward/looking straight at the camera;
– a close up of head and shoulders, without head covering, unless one is worn for religious or medical reasons. Face must not be covered for any reason.
– plain facial expression with eyes open and clearly visible (i.e. without sunglasses and not obscured with hair). This does not apply if it is not possible to comply due to any disability.

In addition, the photo should be:
– in colour
– taken against a plain, light background
– in sharp focus and clear
– free from ‘redeye’, shadows which obscure the face, or reflection
– undamaged

Size
Online applications:
– minimum 750 pixels in height and 600 pixels in width;
– file no larger than 20MB.

Paper applications:
– at least 45mm high by 35mm wide;
– no larger than 297 mm high by 210mm wide.

In some cases, if you need help taking a photo, your local council will be able to do this for you.

Application

You should can apply for a VAC on gov.uk.

You can also apply by filling out a paper application form and sending this to your local council. 

You can request the instructions in large print, braille or easy read.

You may also be able to apply in person at your local council.

Focussing on identity documents implies that your preferred route to voting is in person at the polling station. Also, that the principal obstacle to being able to do so, if you are trans and/or non-binary, is “difficulty” in obtaining photo ID. That seems to be the impetus to advice provided by the Electoral Commission in 2023, which majors on ID-driven forms of voting, while devoting less than half a page each to two other ways of voting that many trans people might prefer:

  • Postal voting
  • Proxy voting

It ignores – or perhaps is unaware of – why photo ID is a sensitive subject. For many people, embarrassing to triggering; and for those in early transition, subject to rapid change, requiring constant update of ID forms.

As such, it might be more sensible for trans individuals to consider alternative routes to voting.

TransActual statement on the Electoral Commission Awareness campaign around voter ID

The Electoral Commission “awareness campaign” is unhelpful in this respect. It locates the issue for trans and non-binary voters in simple availability of photo ID, while ignoring the much deeper issues, both personal and systemic, which impact why a trans person might not have photo id at any moment in time. It treats one symptom, without understanding the real cause. It also majors on the Voter Authority route to voting, when many trans people might prefer to vote by post.

It is good to know that they care about trans people. But that care might have had more practical impact had they consulted with some trans-led organisations.”

Postal voting

If you prefer, you can submit your vote by post. You do not have to give reasons for this decision: it may be that you will be out of town on the day of the election; are still shielding from COVID; or do not want to face the hassle of sorting out ID.

There is a form to fill out on the central government site. However, you will still need to submit this form to your local Electoral Registrations Office before the deadline (5pm on Wednesday 17 April for local elections in 2024). For this reason, it may be simpler to see if you can manage the entire process locally.

In addition, online application is available. There will also be ID checking for all postal vote applications, whether individuals opt for the online or paper application option.

There is now an identity check using your National Insurance number. We have had no reports of issues with this. However, if you do have problems in this respect, please let us know.

Note, however: If you fail to post your postal vote pack in time, you can still take it to your polling station or to your local council office on polling day. Your vote will count if it is sealed and in the hands of the Returning Officer (or their agents) by 10pm on the day of the election.

Since 2023, postal votes are now valid for just three years, and need to be renewed periodically. Long-term postal votes applied for before 31 October 2023 will now expire on 31 January 2026.

Proxy voting

If you opt for a proxy vote, this means that you trust someone else to cast your vote on your behalf. In strict terms, you can apply for a proxy if you:

  • are likely to be away on polling day;
  • have a medical issue or disability;
  • are unable to vote in person because of work or military service.

The person you choose to vote on your behalf will need to go to your polling station to vote, where they will need to show their own photo ID (but not your photo ID) in order to cast your vote. 

Again, a form can be obtained from central government – but you may wish to deal directly with your local Electoral Registration Office to set this up. Also in line with general changes to rules on voter id, additional proof of identty will be required, including National Insurance number.

In normal circumstances, your application form must arrive 6 working days before the date of the election. For local elections this year, that means it must be with your local council by 5pm on 25 April 2023.

However, where an emergency arises meaning that you cannot go to the polling station in person, you can apply for an emergency proxy up to 5pm on polling day.

While a proxy vote may be helpful for some people, it is not intended as general alternative to voting in person. You should have a genuine reason for not going to the polling station, and your application will need to be counter-signed by an ‘appropriate person’ (for example your employer or a doctor).

In addition, while you may discuss with your proxy how you would like them to vote, it is possible for a proxy to disregard your wishes – so a proxy voter needs to be someone you trust.

There are also some quite complex rules around what happens if you appoint a proxy and then change your mind. You can do this directly with the Electoral Registration Office. In addition, there are also some quite complex rules in place for what happens if both of you vote. This is not necessarily a crime – unless the intent was to cast two votes. However, which vote gets counted will depend on some quite complex calculation.

Bottom line: it will not always be yours!

We are determined that trans people will not be pushed any further out of UK politics.

In addition to providing this information resource, we are also:

  • providing training to groups and organisations;
  • on hand to answer individual queries and (in limited fashion) to take up any issues individuals may have with getting registered to vote.

In either case, contact us on register.transactualuk@gmail.com

Whether it is registering to vote, getting ID, or any other aspect of the electoral process, we’d like to know how it went for you.

If you have any feedback – good or bad – please tell us about it at register.transactualuk@gmail.com.  

Dates below are given for local elections, which take place this year on Thursday 2 May. Figures in brackets represent days prior to a national election (excluding weekends and bank holidays).

Now: Check you are still on the Electoral Register

Tuesday 26 March (25 days prior to election): Publication of notice of election/Dissolution of Parliament

Tuesday 16 April (5pm) (12 days prior to election): Deadline for registering to vote

Wednesday 17 April (5pm) (11 days prior to election): Deadline for submitting new postal vote and postal proxy applications, and for changes to existing postal or proxy votes

Wednesday 24 April (5pm) (6 days prior to election): Deadline for submitting new applications to vote by proxy (not postal proxy or emergency proxies)

Deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate

Thursday 2 May 2024 (7am): Local and PCC Elections in England and Wales. Check out the official government site for details.

(5pm): Deadline for application for an emergency proxy vote

(5pm): Last time that you can apply for a replacement for spoilt or lost postal votes

(10pm): Polls close

Note: dates and times cited are taken from publications produced by the Electoral Commission. We cannot guarantee their accuracy and if you want to vote, it is your responsibility to check the exact deadlines and meet them.

The content of these pages is researched from available best sources provided by government and other official bodies, and has been checked by legal experts on behalf of TransActual. It is intended as a helpful guide to ensuring you do not lose your right to vote in UK elections in this year and subsequent years. It is not legal advice, and if you have any concerns about steps you need to take to maintain your right to vote, or any relevant deadlines, you should consult official sources online or contact the returning officer at your local council.