Voting in elections
Frequently asked questions about voting
Before the Poll
I have lost/not received my poll card, can I still vote?
You do not need your poll card to vote, just go to your designated polling station and tell the polling staff your full name and address.
Do I need to take identification to the polling station?
No, you do not need to take ID. You will need to tell the polling staff your full name and address.
I cannot get to the polling station on the day, how can I vote?
If you cannot get to the polling station, you can apply for a postal or proxy vote, subject to submitting an application form before the statutory deadlines. If this has passed it may be possible, in certain circumstances, to apply for an emergency proxy vote.
Can I vote online or by telephone?
Unfortunately there is currently no facility to vote online or by telephone.
Can I vote at a different polling station?
Unfortunately not, each address is designated a polling district with a corresponding polling station, where the register is held and therefore where a person needs to go to vote.
Can anyone vote?
To vote in elections/referendums you have to be 18 or over. You must also be a British, British Overseas Territory, Irish or Commonwealth citizen. European Union citizens can also vote in certain elections. Your name must also be on the Electoral Register, otherwise even if you meet the above criteria you will not be able to vote.
I have not received any information about the candidates/parties, how can I make an informed decision?
In the lead up to an election, the details of the candidates will be shown on the Notice of Poll, which will be displayed on the specific election page on the website. Information regarding the candidates is the responsibility of the individuals/parties concerned, so if you have not heard anything you would need to contact them. Electoral Services do not have any information on the candidates.
Can I get a lift to the polling station?
Unfortunately Electoral Services cannot provide this for you. You may wish to contact the candidates/parties concerned and see if they can help you.
What happens if I don't vote?
Voting in the UK is not compulsory, so whether you vote or not is your choice, it just means that you haven’t used your opportunity to have your say and get your voice heard.
The voting process
What happens in the polling station?
When you go to the station the staff will ask for your name and address (even if you take your poll card) so they can check that you are on the Electoral Register. Once your entry is found your electoral number is recorded on a Corresponding Numbers List (CNL) and you will be given your ballot paper(s). The ballot paper will tell you how many choices you can make. Take your ballot paper(s) into a polling booth so that no one can see how you vote. You will need to put a cross (X) in the box next to the option you wish to support. Do not make any other mark on the ballot paper or your vote may not be counted.
Once you have voted please fold your ballot paper and place it in the ballot box. In some instances you will be asked not to fold your ballot paper. You don’t have to tell anyone how you voted. If there is more than one election taking place at the same time you may have more than one ballot paper to complete and these may go in separate ballot boxes. Please pay close attention to what the staff tell you and please ask if you need any help.
I thought voting was secret, why does the clerk write my elector number on a list?
It is a legal requirement that poll numbers are written on the Corresponding Numbers List (CNL). The procedure exists to detect and prove any possible abuses or fraud. At the end of the poll, the list is sealed in a packet, which is not opened at the count, but stored securely. At the end of the count the counted ballot papers are sealed and stored securely and separately.
These sealed packets can only be opened by an Order from the High Court or County Court provided that the court is satisfied that an Order is needed to help prosecute for an election offence. The procedure is there to protect the integrity of the democratic process and not to undermine it. Your vote is, therefore, secret.
Why are pencils provided in the polling booths? Can I use a pen?
Pencils are used partly for historic reasons and partly practical reasons, as they are sustainable and more reliable. However, there is no legal requirement to use a pencil and you are welcome to use your own pen to cast your vote.
What happens if I make a mistake on my ballot paper?
If you make a mistake on your ballot paper please do not put your ballot paper in the ballot box, but speak to a member of staff and they will be able to help you.
Who are the people who ask for my poll number outside the polling station?
These people are called tellers and they are used by each of the candidates/participants to help with their campaigns. Tellers have no standing in electoral law and are not connected to the official election process. They may ask for your elector number on the way in or out of the polling station, but you do not have to give it to them if you do not want to.