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Everything you need to know about voting in the 2024 elections

In collaboration with LGBT HERO

By Alastair James & Justin Mahboubian-Jones & Sophie Porter

A guide on voting in the UK elections
A guide on voting in the UK elections (Image: Pexels)

2024 is a big year when it comes to voting. There are major elections across the world, including in the US and the UK. In London, on 2 May, we also have the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections.

While we currently don’t know the exact date of the UK’s next General Election it’s likely to be at some point in 2024. This is because the maximum term for a Parliament is five years.

With all this in mind, we as well as our friends at LGBT HERO, have put together a useful guide on everything you need to know about voting. This includes how to register to vote, what documents you need come polling day, and trans-specific advice.

Why is it important to vote?

First of all, it’s important to vote because it’s how you make your voice heard about everything that goes on in our country. Voting impacts everything from healthcare and the economy to civil liberties and housing. Whatever your view on matters such as a ‘conversion therapy’ ban, trans rights, and so much more, it’s a way of letting your opinion be heard.

It can sometimes be hard to feel like your voice matters. But voting is about having an impact be that in a local, national, or other election. It’s not compulsory to vote, and the right to vote in free and fair elections is something many take for granted. But if you don’t vote, then you won’t have a say in what city, country, or world you want to live in.

Who can register to vote?

To be able to vote in local/borough elections, including the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections, you have to be:

  • A British citizen, an eligible EU citizen, or a qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • A London or UK residen
  • At least 18 years old

To note, only British and Commonwealth citizens can vote in a general/parliamentary election.

In 2023, the Electoral Commission reported that 14% of people who are eligible to vote aren’t registered. In London, an estimated 18% of eligible voters are not registered to vote, with some communities particularly under-registered, such as young people, ethnic minorities and Deaf and disabled people.

Did you know that you can register to vote from the age of 16 if you live in England and thus in London (or from 14 or over if you live in Scotland and Wales)? But remember, you will need to re-register if you change your name or your address.

How do I register?

Very easily. You can do it online here or using a paper form. These forms must be sent to your local Electoral Registration Office which you can find the details of here.

What information do I need to provide?

To register to vote, you need your name, address (and your previous address if you’ve moved in the last 12 months), and your National Insurance (NI) number. If you don’t have your NI number, you can still register and your local council electoral services will contact you to verify your identity.

If you’re changing your name and planning on voting in person at a polling station, the name you use to register needs to match the name on your photo Voter ID. Trans people who are more likely to have important documents or ID with different names should be especially mindful of which name they use to register. You can change the name registered here. There are several documents you can use in support of a name change including a marriage certificate, an enrolled deed poll, or a change of name deed. 

And if you don’t have a stable address or are homeless, you can still register. You can provide the address of somewhere you spend a “substantial amount” of time. You can find more info here.

Is there a deadline for registration?

The latest you can register to vote for any election is 12 working days before that election takes place. However, it is strongly recommended that you register as soon as possible to avoid any issues and avoid not having your voice heard.

Here are some key deadlines for the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections:

  • Register to vote by midnight, Tuesday 16 April 2024. 
  • Apply for a postal vote by 5pm, Wednesday 17 April 2024. 
  • Apply for a proxy vote by 5pm, Wednesday 24 April 2024. 
  • Apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate by 5pm, Wednesday 24 April 2024.

When it comes to an election, how can I cast my vote?

Once you’ve registered to vote, then comes polling day. You can either vote in person at a polling station or vote by post, or by proxy. If you choose to vote at a polling station you should be sent a polling card ahead of the election. This will inform you of your nearest polling station. Otherwise, you can find all polling stations here.

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm on polling day.

You can also opt for a postal vote, which you can apply for here. This option is recommended if you think the process of voting in person could be triggering or stressful. There are some checks when you register for a postal vote online. 

You can also apply to vote by proxy, so nominate someone you trust to vote on your behalf if you can’t make it to the polling station on the day. Click here to apply. 

What do I need to take with me?

As of May 2023, voters in England are required to present an accepted form of photo Voter ID if voting in person. If the name on your photo Voter ID and the electoral register isn’t the same, you’ll also need a document proving your change of name. 

When you get to the polling station a clerk will ask for your photo Voter ID to check against your name on the electoral register. You are well within your right to request that you share it with them privately and they are legally obliged to follow that request. The only other person who can see your photo Voter ID is the presiding officer of that polling station. Apart from that, your photo Voter ID cannot and should not be passed around.

If your ID is rejected, you can go back and try again with a different form of photo Voter ID. For trans people, as well as potential proof of a name change, a second form of photo Voter ID such as a free Voter Authority Certificate, is recommended, especially if the person’s physical appearance is changing or has changed along with their gender expression. The law says that if a clerk or presiding officer has “reasonable doubt” about your appearance then you can be turned away from a polling station. What constitutes “reasonable” isn’t qualified. 

A 2021 report by Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation found that 38% of trans people have had their photo ID rejected in everyday life. Among the reasons cited for ID being refused were photos not matching someone’s appearance, different names, gender markers not matching appearance, as well as hostility and transphobia.

What forms of photo ID are accepted?

Below are the types of photo ID that are accepted:

  • A UK passport 
  • A passport issued by a European Economic Area (EEA) state or a Commonwealth country   
  • A national identity card issued by an EEA state   
  • A UK driving licence   
  • A driving licence issued by any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state 
  • A Biometric Immigration Document   
  • An identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)   
  • A Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)   
  • Any of the following concessionary travel passes funded by the UK Government: Older Person’s Bus Pass, Disabled Person’s Bus Pass, Oyster 60+ Card, Freedom Pass   
  • A Blue Badge 

If your photo ID is out of date, that doesn’t matter as long as it’s from the list of accepted photo IDs. The photo needs to look like you though and the name should match the name you used to register to vote. 

If you feel like you need a new form of photo ID, and if you’re LGBTQ+ and want cheap, gender marker-free photo Voter ID, you can get a Voter Authority Certificate. Or you can try a PASS card.

LGBT HERO has more info here. Its Don’t Lose Your Vote – Voter ID Hub was produced as part of an impartial Voter ID public awareness grant programme funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Where can I get extra help and information?

If you can’t find the answers to your questions or concerns above, you can find lots more information about voting on LGBT HERO’s website. There is also more specific advice for trans people here.

For any other information on civic and democratic participation, check the GLA Democracy Hub. For more info about elections check the Electoral Commission website.