Published on

31 October 2023

How to navigate changes to postal and proxy voting

Changes are being made to postal and proxy voting from 31 October ahead of next year's local elections in May

Postal and proxy voting

Wokingham Borough Council is keen to ensure residents are aware of further changes being made to the voting process as part of national legislation.

From 31 October, there will be changes to the rules around postal and proxy voting. All of these are a result of the Elections Act, which received royal assent in 2022.

Electors will now have the option of completing a postal or proxy vote application through a new online central government portal. Current postal voters do not need to re-apply and will be contacted by January 2026.

For security reasons, all postal and proxy vote applications must include a signature, date of birth and national insurance number. This is the case for both online and paper applications.

Postal vote applications will now be valid for three years and after this time will have to be renewed. If an elector applying for a new postal vote close to the deadline in advance of an election fails to verify their identity, their application can be determined using the exception or attestation process up to and including polling day. However, the council is keen that anyone wishing to vote by post in the future, applies sooner rather than later to ensure there is no delay.

All electors with a permanent proxy vote for all elections in England will need to reapply for their proxy vote by 31 January 2024.

Be ready for May 2024

Andrew Moulton, Returning Officer at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We appreciate it might be difficult to stay on top of all the changes that are being introduced across the country. That is why we are drawing voters’ attention to the latest set of rules being introduced so that they have time to act accordingly.

“I would also like to remind you that in order to vote at any election in person at the polling station – whether it’s local elections in May next year or the next general election – you must be registered to vote and have suitable photo ID. We know lots of people prefer not to vote in person, so it is particularly important if you do want a postal or proxy vote to read about the changes to the application process, act now and ensure you are prepared.”

Last year, voters were asked to bring suitable photo ID for the first time when they voted at a polling station, with some having to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC). This will continue to be the case for future elections, including next year’s all-out borough elections and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May. If you applied for a VAC last year, you do not need to apply again this year.

Postal and proxy voting

You do not have to visit a polling station, or even be in the area on polling day, as you can vote by post or nominate a person to vote on your behalf.

When applying to vote by post, you must now provide your date of birth, signature and national insurance number. Your date of birth and signature are then checked against the completed postal vote pack submitted at an election. An electronic signature is not accepted, as your signature is an important part of the verification process.

You can ask anyone to act as your proxy, as long as they are registered to vote and it is for a type of election they are allowed to vote in. The council will contact electors who currently vote by proxy to request they reapply. There are also new limits regarding the number of people a proxy can vote for: a proxy may now only vote on behalf of four electors, of which no more than two can be based in the UK.

You can read more about the changes to postal and proxy vote applications on the council’s website.

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