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Electoral services

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4. How to vote

Your name must be included in the electoral register to be able to vote in UK elections although you may not be eligible to vote at all elections. If you are not already registered to vote, please visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. If you are not registered but want to vote at a forthcoming election, you have until midnight on the twelfth working day before polling day to submit an application.

The poll card

If you are registered and eligible to vote at an election you should receive a poll card shortly after the notice of election is published (around five to six weeks before polling day). The poll card tells you the date of the election and where you need to go to vote. If you have an absent vote in place you will receive a slightly different poll card which will advise postal voters of the date on which their postal ballots will be sent out or, if you vote by proxy, it will confirm the name of your proxy and where they will need to go to vote. The poll card is for your information only so don't worry if you lose it; you can still vote without it (unless you have an anonymous registration).

At the polling station

Give the poll clerk your name and address and, provided you are registered, they will issue you with a ballot paper. The only exception is if you are an anonymous elector, as anonymous electors must present their poll card to the Presiding Officer at the polling station. This is because their name and address will not appear on the election register so they can only be identified by the electoral number printed on their poll card.

Once you have your ballot paper, go to one of the polling booths and mark X in the box to the right, alongside the name of the candidate(s) you want to vote for. The number of candidates you are allowed to vote for is printed at the top of the ballot paper; you cannot vote for more than this number. Don't put any other mark on the ballot paper or your vote may not be counted. If you accidentally spoil your ballot paper, or vote for the wrong candidate, show it to the Presiding Officer and ask for another one. Once you have completed your ballot paper, fold it in half and place it in the ballot box.

Voting by post or by proxy

  • If you are a postal voter you are not entitled to vote in person, even if you have not used your postal vote. You may deliver your completed postal ballot to the polling station if you wish, but you must hand it to the Presiding Officer in the sealed Envelope B as it must not be placed in the ballot box.
  • If you have appointed a proxy to vote on your behalf you may still vote in person, as long as you do so before your proxy has voted. If your proxy has already voted on your behalf by post, you will not be allowed to vote yourself.

Accessibility

If you experience difficulty in voting, assistance is available at each polling station as we have a legal obligation to provide the following:

  • a device which enables blind or partially sighted voters to vote unaided
  • at least one polling booth which is suitable for wheelchair users
  • at least one large-print version of the ballot paper displayed inside the station
  • a large print, hand-held version of the ballot paper
  • a provision for blind voters (there is a tactile voting device in every polling station)
  • a provision for voters with physical disabilities who are unable to vote without assistance and voters who are unable to read, to be assisted by a companion. A declaration must be made but it can be made orally or in writing
  • assistance from the presiding officer

Close of poll

The polls close promptly at 10pm, but anyone already in a queue at the polling station at 10pm is entitled to vote and the Presiding Officer will make the necessary arrangements to identify these electors.

Once everyone has voted, the ballot box is sealed and taken to the count location. The ballot papers are then verified (this means we check that the number of ballot papers in the ballot box is the same as the number issued by the Presiding Officer) and then counted, with the election result being declared by the Returning Officer.