Voting in the May 2023 Local Elections: How does it work?

Voters will go to polls in the 2023 Local Elections on Thursday 4 May in almost every council area in the Anglia region. It will be the biggest test of political opinion ahead of a General Election expected in the spring or autumn of next year.

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm and the results of the elections will be known on Friday 5 May.

There are around 48 district and unitary councils in the Anglia region and 44 of them will be holding widespread elections in 2023. Around 4,500 candidates are contesting more than 1,000 council seats in the area.

Local councillors serve a four-year term before needing to be re-elected.

Polling stations will be opening in the areas with elections from 7am until 10pm on Thursday 5 May Credit: ITV News Anglia

There is one major change that has been introduced for elections in England from May 2023 which means voters will not only need to be registered to vote but will also have to produce photographic identification at the polling station. That could be a passport or a driving licence with a photo.

If you don't have accepted photo ID, you can apply for a free voter ID document, which is known as a Voter Authority Certificate.

How to vote in 2023 Local Elections in England

How many councils run local services in my area?

In most places in the Anglia region it is two - a county council called an upper tier local authority and a district, city or borough council which is a lower-tier local authority.

In some areas there are unitary authorities which run all the local services in their area - set up to replace the two-tier structure. In the Anglia region these are places like Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Southend-on-Sea.

In one part of the Anglia region - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - there is also a directly elected so-called “metro mayor” and a Combined Authority which looks after strategic planning, housing and transport.

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Why are there different types of councils?

The different councils have responsibility for varying local services.

County Councils run schools, social services and the highways while district, city and borough councils look after planning, household rubbish collections and leisure facilities. Unitary councils run all the local services in their area.

The local authority structure in England has evolved since there was major reform in 1974 but it has been piecemeal with different areas changing at different times making for a complex patchwork of local governance.

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How does voting work?

The minimum voting age for local elections in England is 18 years old.

Local elections in England operate on the first-past-the-post system means the candidate with the most votes wins. You get to put a cross on the ballot paper next to the person who you want to be elected.

Council wards can have one, two or three local councillors representing the local area so sometimes you will be asked to put one, two or three crosses on your ballot paper.

Depending on the number of council seats to be filled in the area, the candidates in first, second or third place will be elected.

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What can I use as Photo ID at the polling station?

For the first time in May 2023, every voter will have to show photo ID when voting in person at their local polling station.

You can use any of the following accepted forms of photo ID:

  • A passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth country

  • A driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state (this includes a provisional driving licence)

  • A Blue Badge

  • An Older Person’s Bus Pass funded by the Government of the United Kingdom

  • A Disabled Person’s Bus Pass funded by the Government of the United Kingdom

  • An identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)

  • Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)

  • National identity card issued by an EEA state

There is a full list of acceptable photographic ID on the Electoral Commission website.

You can still use your photo ID even if it is out of date, as long as the photo looks like you. The name on your ID should be the same name you used to register to vote.

If you don't have an accepted form of photo ID , you can apply for a free voter ID document, known as a Voter Authority Certificate from your local council. The deadline for applications for the May elections is 5 pm on Tuesday 25 April 2023.

Click here to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate

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When are polling stations open?

If you want to vote in person, there will be polling stations open from 7am on Thursday 4 May until 10pm that evening.

You need to be registered to vote in advance and you can do at that any time by contacting your local council or going online here.

The deadline for registering to vote for the May 2023 local election is 11.59 pm on Monday 17 April.

If you miss that deadline you can register to vote at time for any future elections - you only need to do it once unless you change address, your name or your nationality.

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Can I vote by post?

You can send your vote through the post if you apply to your local council by 5pm on Tuesday 18 April.

You can choose to vote by post if you will be away on polling day or working or it is simply more convenient for you.

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Can someone vote on my behalf?

If you know that you won’t be able to get to the polling station on polling day, you can ask someone you trust to cast your vote for you. This is called a proxy vote and the person casting your vote is often referred to as your proxy.

There is an application process to follow which must be completed at least six days before polling day. There is more information on the Electoral Commission website here.

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