Electoral services

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9. Casual vacancies

Casual vacancies

Parish and Town Council vacancies

If a seat becomes vacant on a Parish or Town Council, the Clerk is required to give public notice of it. To call an election, 10 or more electors for the electoral area need to make a request, in writing, and within 14 working days of the date of the notice. The request or requests must be sent to the Proper Officer of the District Council. If enough requests are received the Returning Officer will set the date of the election which must be within 60 days of the date of the notice of vacancy. If enough requests have not been received by the due date, the Town or Parish Council is allowed to make their own arrangements to fill the vacancy by co-option.

District and County Council vacancies

If a seat becomes vacant on the District or County Council, the appropriate local authority is required to give public notice. The Returning Officer will fix the date of the election as follows:

  • in a case in which the High Court or the Council have declared the office to be vacant, within 35 computed days from the date of the declaration; and
  • in any other case, within 35 computed days of a written request for an election to be held. The request must be given to the Proper Officer of the authority, by two local government electors for the area.

If a vacancy arises within 6 months of the date on which that councillor's term of office expires, the election will take place at the next ordinary election. The only exception to this 6 month rule is where the total number of unfilled vacancies on the Council exceeds one third of the total membership of the Council.

UK Parliamentary vacancies

If a seat became vacant in the UK Parliament the Speaker of the Commons would issue a warrant, which would be followed by the issue of an election writ. During a parliamentary session the warrant is issued following a motion in the House of Commons. If a vacancy occurred after a new parliament (straight after a general election) the warrant wouldn't be issued until the time for bringing an election petition had passed. If a writ is pending the warrant will not be issued until the petition has been heard in the courts.

European Parliamentary vacancies

MEP's are elected by a system of proportional representation. At normal European elections, registered political parties have to submit a list of their candidates. When the votes are counted, seats are allocated proportionally and party candidates are awarded seats in the order in which they appear on the party list. Therefore, if a vacancy occurred in a seat held by a member of a political party, the Returning Officer for the electoral region would consult the party's list of candidates and the person whose name appears highest on that list would be appointed to fill the vacancy.

A by-election would only be held if a vacancy occurred in a seat held by an independent, individual candidate or, in the case of a political party, where the next person on that party's list was not willing or qualified to be elected, to the extent that the list is exhausted.