Absent voting lets you vote in an election even if you can't get to the polling station - for example, you might be at work or on holiday on polling day, or you might have a medical condition or disability which means you'll find it hard to get to the polling station.
There are two types of absent voting - postal voting and proxy voting.
If you vote by post, your voting card will be sent to you, and you'll fill it in and send it back by post. You can find out more about postal voting on GOV.UK.
If you vote by proxy, someone you trust will vote for you. You can find out more about proxy voting on GOV.UK.
The changes you'll see
If you're applying for an absent vote, you'll need to provide proof of your identity.
An online system will be set up which lets you apply for an absent vote online. You'll still need to provide proof of your identity.
The existing secrecy requirements will be extended to postal and proxy votes. You can find out more about the secrecy requirements on the Electoral Commission website.
If you vote by post, you'll have to apply again every 3 years. Currently you have to refresh your signature every 5 years.
Political parties and campaigners will be banned from handling postal votes.
If you're handing in postal votes at a polling station, you will only be allowed to hand in a maximum of 6.
You will only be able to act as a proxy for up to 4 people. Of these, the maximum number who can be 'domestic electors' (voters living in the UK) is 2.
When the changes come into force
We expect that the online application service for absent votes will be available from July 2023.
We expect that the rules on secrecy and who can handle postal votes will come into force after the May 2023 elections, most likely in Autumn 2023.
The change to the three-yearly application process will be transitional (in other words, it will not affect everyone all at once), starting from January 2024.
We expect that the changes to handing in postal votes and the new proxy limit will come into force for elections in May 2024.