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Can you use an expired passport as ID to vote? New rules on voter ID for the 2023 local elections, explained

The largest round of local elections since 2019 are taking place on Thursday, with more than 8,000 council seats up for grabs in 230 local authorities in England.

There are also mayoral elections in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough, while 462 council seats will be voted on in Northern Ireland.

Controversially, for the first time ever, voters will be required to show ID to cast their ballot at polling stations.

The Tories have said voter ID is needed to combat electoral fraud, but critics argue it suppresses voters from marginalised groups, who are less likely to have the required identification. Labour’s Deputy leader, Angela Rayner, has called it a “blatant attempt to rig democracy in the favour of the Conservative Party”.

Here’s everything you need to know about ID requirements for the upcoming elections, and what you will need to vote.

When are the 2023 local elections?

The elections will take place on Thursday 4 May in England, and two weeks later, on Thursday 18 May, in Northern Ireland.

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on election day, after which the votes will be counted.

What counts as valid ID?

The following forms of ID will be accepted and enable you to vote:

  • passport issued by the UK, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA (European Economic Area) state or a Commonwealth country;
  • driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or an EEA state;
  • provisional driving licence;
  • Blue Badge;
  • older person’s bus pass;
  • disabled person’s bus pass or Oyster 60+ card.

The Electoral Commission says you can still use your photo ID if it’s out of date, as long as it looks like you.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.

People who don’t have access to ID should have applied for a free “voter authority document” that will allow them to take part. However, the deadline to apply for the certificate was 5pm on Tuesday, 25 April.

Is there an election in my area?

To see if there is an election in your area in May, enter your postcode into the Electoral Commission’s online checker here.

The elections are mostly taking place in rural areas, which are commonly held by the Conservatives. More than 3,300 of the 8,000 seats being voted on are held by the Tories.

There are also votes in some urban areas of northern England, which Labour typically controls. Labour will defend more than 2,000 seats, with the Liberal Democrats holding 1,200 and the Greens 240.

Who are my local candidates?

The website has information on all the candidates standing in the local elections.

Enter your postcode into the site and you will be able to see profiles on all the candidates, as well as links to their party’s local social media pages, and ways to contact them.

How can I vote?

You can either vote in person at a polling station, by post, or using a proxy.

You must be registered to vote in order to take part in the elections. You can do this online here. If you have already registered to vote in a previous election you do not need to do so again, unless you have moved homes. The deadline to register to vote in this week’s elections has now passed.

The deadline for postal and proxy votes has also passed. However, it is possible to apply for an emergency proxy for the following reasons:

  • you cannot vote in person because of a medical emergency or disability;
  • you cannot vote in person because of your employment;
  • the photo ID you were planning on using to vote has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed;
  • you’ve not yet received a new or replacement photo ID you’ve ordered.

You have until 5pm on election day to apply for an emergency proxy. Find out more about doing so here.

Where is my polling station?

You should receive a polling card informing you where to vote. If you do not have a polling card, you can find your local polling station by entering your postcode here.

You must vote at the polling station you are registered to, unless you have applied for a postal vote, which you must do in advance. You can do this here – though postal vote applications for these upcoming elections have now closed.

Why are these elections important?

Issues such as bin collections, the state of roads and access to local hospitals and libraries tend to decide these elections, as opposed to issues such as the economy and immigration which dominate the conversation during a general election. Candidates very much focus on everyday problems that affect the local community.

The Local Government Association explains: “A councillor’s primary role is to represent their ward or division and the people who live in it. Councillors provide a bridge between the community and the council. As well as being an advocate for local residents and signposting them to the right people at the council, you will need to keep them informed about the issues that affect them.

“In order to understand and represent local views and priorities, you need to build strong relationships and encourage local people to make their views known and engage with you and the council. Good communication and engagement are central to being an effective councillor.”

Councillors’ roles include:

  • responding to residents’ queries and investigating their concerns;
  • communicating council decisions that affect them;
  • working with representatives of local organisations, interest groups and businesses;
  • represent residents’ views at council meetings;
  • leading local campaigns on residents’ behalf.

Councils also act as regulators. Councillors may be appointed to sit on the planning and regulatory committee – which deals with issues such as planning applications and licences for pubs and restaurants, and ensures that businesses comply with the law. In these roles, councillors tend to be specially trained and are required to act independently – so they are not subject to the group or party whip.

Despite these elections being focused on local issues, this is still the biggest test of political opinion ahead of the next general election.

Big wins for Labour would add to the feeling that Sir Keir Starmer’s party is primed to take over at the next national vote, whereas the Tories performing better than expected would provide hope for Rishi Sunak.

The last time these seats were voted on, Theresa May was prime minister and Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the opposition, so the political landscape is significantly different.

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