Local elections in 2023: When and who can vote?

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England local election. image: BBC

In May, fresh councilors will be elected by voters in certain regions of England and Northern Ireland.

The deadline for registering to vote in person or through a proxy in England has already elapsed, however, individuals can still apply for a postal vote until 5:00 pm BST on Tuesday.

On the other hand, the deadline for registering to vote by post or proxy in Northern Ireland is April 26, or April 28 for voting in person.

Election locations and dates.


It appears that on May 4th, a significant number of council seats, approximately 8,000, will be up for election in 230 councils throughout England. Additionally, several mayoral elections are set to take place in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield, and Middlesbrough.

Furthermore, Northern Ireland is holding 11 council elections on May 18th. It’s worth noting that there are currently no scheduled elections in Scotland or Wales.

How do I cast my vote?

There are three ways to cast your vote in the upcoming elections:

  • In person at your designated polling station on the day of the election. You will need to check your local polling station beforehand and bring your polling card or other forms of identification.
  • By post, by applying for a postal vote through your local election office. The deadline for applying for a postal vote varies depending on the location, so make sure to check with your local authorities.
  • By nominating a proxy to vote on your behalf. You can arrange for someone you trust to vote for you, either by applying for a proxy vote or by appointing someone to vote on your behalf in person at your local polling station. Again, the deadline for applying for a proxy vote may vary depending on your location, so check with your local election office for more information

To be eligible to vote in the upcoming elections, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be aged 18 or over on the day of the election.
  • They must be registered at an address within the area where they want to vote.
  • They must be a British citizen, an Irish or EU citizen, or an eligible Commonwealth citizen.
  • They must not be legally excluded from voting.

It is essential to note that rules and regulations for voting may differ based on the location and type of election. Voters are advised to read their ballot papers carefully and follow the instructions provided.

In general, voters usually have one vote for each available seat in an election area, also known as a ward or division. In larger wards, several seats may be available.

The candidate with the most votes wins.

Northern Ireland uses the single transferable vote (STV) system, where voters rank candidates in order of preference.


When is the deadline for registering to vote?

It appears that the deadline to register to vote in person or by proxy in England has already passed, and the deadline to request a postal vote is 5:00 pm BST on April 18th.

However, if you miss the proxy nomination deadline, you can still apply for an emergency proxy vote before 5:00 pm on polling day if you can’t vote in person.

In Northern Ireland, the deadline to register to vote by post or proxy is 5:00 pm BST on April 26th, and to vote in person, you must register by 11:59 pm BST on April 28th.

It’s crucial to keep track of the deadlines and requirements for voting in your area and check with your local election office for further details.

Will I be required to show identification in order to vote?

Starting from May 4th, 2023, voters in England will need to show photo identification when voting in person.

Voters are required to bring one of the 22 valid forms of ID, which include 

  • passports, 
  • driving licenses, 
  • Older or Disabled Person’s bus passes, 
  • Oyster 60+ cards. 

Out-of-date ID can also be used as long as the voter looks the same.

For those who do not have any valid ID, the government offers a free Voter Authority Certificate, which is only available for those who have already applied to vote in person. 

Applications for the certificate will close on April 25th at 5:00 pm BST. However, according to government data, as of April 17th, only 67,234 people had applied for the certificate.

It’s important to note that voter ID has been required in Northern Ireland since 2003, and different rules may apply in other areas. Voters should check with their local election office for further information on ID requirements and the application process.

Can I bring my pet or kids?

Can I bring my pet to polling. Image: GETTY IMAGES.

It’s generally not allowed to bring animals, apart from assistance dogs, into polling stations. 

However, some local authorities may allow dogs at their discretion. It’s recommended to check with your local election office to confirm whether dogs are allowed in your polling station.

It’s great to encourage children to learn about democracy, and voters are welcome to bring their children to polling stations.

However, it’s important to note that children must not mark the ballot paper or interfere with the voting process. Voters should supervise their children at all times and ensure that they do not cause any disruption.

What do local governments do?

Local councils in England and Wales have a wide range of responsibilities that include 

  • providing care for the elderly and disabled, 
  • running schools, 
  • fixing potholes on some roads, 
  • collecting rubbish. 

In Northern Ireland, councils have fewer responsibilities and do not run education, road-building, or housing. However, they still collect taxes and maintain some local services.

The specific responsibilities of each council may vary depending on the area, and voters can find more information about their local council’s responsibilities on their council’s website or by contacting their local election office.

What makes these elections important?

Local councils play a crucial role in deciding who is in charge of local public services and how they are run.

Local issues such as planning decisions, the state of roads or rubbish collection, often decide council elections. However, many services provided by councils have been disrupted by recent strikes.

Moreover, councils have faced long-term cuts to local government funding dating back to 2010, which followed the global financial crisis.

These cuts have put significant pressure on councils to reduce spending and find new ways to deliver services with fewer resources.

The impact of these cuts has been felt across many areas, including social care, education, and infrastructure.

As a result, local councils have faced difficult decisions in terms of how they allocate funding and which services to prioritize.

The collection of trash is frequently a key issue in local elections. Image: GETTY IMAGES

The local elections in May 2023 could be a significant test of the current Westminster government’s popularity ahead of the next general election, which is expected in 2024.

In the last council seat contest in May 2019, the Conservative party lost over 1,300 seats while Labour lost 82. At the time, Theresa May was about to be replaced as prime minister by Boris Johnson.

Currently, the Conservative party is trailing behind the Labour party by around 15 points in national voting polls, indicating that they may face a challenging election cycle.

The results of the upcoming local elections could provide an indication of how the parties are performing in different areas of the country and how their policies are resonating with voters.

When will the results be announced?

The correct date for the English local election results is 5 May 2023, not 4-5 May as previously stated. Results from more than 60 English councils are expected overnight, with the rest announced throughout the day on Friday 5 May 2023.

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