How to vote UK

Citizenship and living in the UK: Voting. What are the different ways to vote?

Pictures showing citizens, and a text saying "The voting public".
How to vote UK

1. How to vote UK, Overview.

You need to register to vote before you can vote in UK elections or referendums.
If you’re eligible, you can vote in person on the day of the election at a named polling station. You can also apply for a postal or proxy vote instead.

Ways of voting.

You can vote:
  1. in person at a polling station
  2. by post
  3. by asking someone else to vote for you (voting by proxy)
You cannot vote online in any elections.

Eligibility to vote.

You can vote when you’re:
  1. 18 years old in England and Northern Ireland.
  2. 16 years old in Scottish Parliament and local elections (and other elections when you’re 18).
  3. 16 years old in Welsh Parliament elections (and other elections when you’re 18).

Elections you can vote in.

Different elections have different rules on who can vote.

2. Voting in person.

You vote in person at a polling station (usually in a public building, such as a school or local hall).

Your poll card.

You’ll be sent a poll card just before an election telling you when to vote and at which polling station. You can only vote at the polling station location on your card.
If you have not received a poll card but think you should, contact your local Electoral Registration Office.

You can still vote if you’ve lost your card.

When you can vote.

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm on the day of an election (‘polling day’).

When you get to the polling station.

Give your name and address to the staff inside the polling station when you arrive.
You’ll be given a ballot paper containing a list of the people, parties or options you can vote for.

ID you need to bring.

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland you do not need to bring any identification to vote.
You will need to show photo ID to vote in Northern Ireland (your passport, driving licence, Electoral Identity Card or certain kinds of Translink Smartpass). You do not have to take your poll card with you.

Filling in your ballot paper

Follow the instructions on the notices in the polling booth and on the top of the ballot paper to vote.

Voting if you’re disabled.

If you’re disabled, your local Electoral Registration Office can tell you about:
  1. physical access, for example wheelchair ramps and disabled parking spaces.
  2. low-level polling booths.
  3. equipment for voters with a visual impairment.
Every polling station must provide at least one large print display version of the ballot paper and a special tactile voting device (TVD) to help people with sight loss.

3. Voting by post.

You must apply for a postal vote if you want to vote by post, for example if:
  1. you’re away from home.
  2. you’re abroad and want to vote in England, Scotland or Wales.
You do not need to give a reason unless you’re voting in Northern Ireland.

Apply for a postal vote

You can apply to vote by post for one of the following:
  1. a single election on a specific date.
  2. a specific period if you want to vote in England, Scotland or Wales.
  3. permanently.

Change where your postal vote card is sent

Make a new application for a postal vote if you move house or you’ll be away from home when the postal vote is sent out.
There’s a different form for Northern Ireland.

Completing and returning your postal vote.

When voting by post, you should:
  1. mark your vote on your ballot paper in secret.
  2. fill in the postal voting statement.
  3. put the ballot and statement in the envelope provided.
  4. seal the envelope yourself.
Post your ballot back as quickly as possible to make sure it’s counted.

If you’re too late to post your ballot paper.

Take it to your local polling station by 10pm, or Electoral Registration Office before they close.

In Northern Ireland, take it to your local Area Electoral Office before they close.

Replace a lost or damaged ballot paper.

Your ballot paper needs to clearly display your details and voting choice. If it has been damaged you need to get another one.
You can either:
  1. ask your local Electoral Registration Office to post a replacement.
  2. collect a replacement from your local Electoral Registration Office up to 5pm on election day (or the day before in Northern Ireland).
You cannot vote at a polling station if you registered to vote by post but your ballot paper was lost or damaged.

4. Voting by proxy.

If you’re unable to vote in person you can ask someone to vote on your behalf. This is called a proxy vote.
You can only apply for a proxy vote under certain circumstances, including:
  1. being away on polling day.
  2. having a medical issue or disability.
  3. not being able to vote in person because of work or military service.

How to apply for a proxy vote.

  • Apply for a proxy vote using a paper form. You need to send it to your local Electoral Registration Office.
  • Usually, you need to apply for a proxy vote at least 6 working days before election day if you want to vote in England, Scotland or Wales.
  • There’s a different form to apply to vote by proxy in Northern Ireland. Apply at least 14 working days before election day.

How long your proxy vote is for.

You can apply to vote by proxy:
  1. for a single election on a specific date.
  2. for a specific period if you want to vote in England, Scotland or Wales.
  3. permanently.

Who can act as a proxy.

You can ask anyone to act as your proxy - as long as they:
  1. are registered to vote.
  2. are allowed to vote in the type of election taking place.
  3. can vote in the polling station stated on your poll card.
If they cannot get to your polling station, they will need to contact your local electoral registration office to arrange to cast their proxy vote by post.

Change or cancel your proxy vote.

To change who acts as your proxy or to start voting in person, contact your local Electoral Registration Office.
If you want to vote by post instead, complete a postal vote application.

5. Voting from abroad.

How you vote when you’re abroad depends on:
  1. whether you’ll be abroad temporarily or living abroad.
  2. where you want to vote.

If you’ll be abroad temporarily.

You can vote by post or proxy if you’ll be abroad temporarily on election day, for example on holiday or a work trip.

Voting in England, Scotland or Wales.

You can arrange:
  1. to vote by post.
  2. for someone else to vote for you (vote by proxy).
If you’re abroad on election day you need to make arrangements in advance. Apply to vote by proxy if the election is less than 2 weeks away and you have not made the arrangements yet.
Your postal ballot will be sent to the address you’ve chosen no earlier than 16 days before the election. You need to return your ballot before 10pm on polling day.

Voting in Northern Ireland.

There’s a different process to apply to vote by post or proxy if you live in Northern Ireland and will be abroad temporarily on election day.
If you will not have time to receive and return your postal ballot in Northern Ireland before going abroad you’ll need to vote by proxy. You cannot apply to have your postal vote sent outside the UK.

If you’re moving or living abroad.

You can only vote in UK Parliament elections. You may be able to vote in referendums. Each referendum has different rules on who can vote in it.
You need to register as an overseas voter.
You can vote by post or proxy, if you’re eligible. You’ll be asked to make this choice when you register.
You’ll then need to apply by filling in and posting one of the following:
  1. the paper form to apply for a postal vote.
  2. the paper form to apply for a proxy vote.
You can also ask for the form to be emailed or posted to you when you register online.
If you’re registered in Northern Ireland, you cannot vote by post from abroad.

How to vote UK, get help voting.

You can contact your Electoral Register Office to find out when postal votes might be sent. This could help you decide whether to vote by proxy or by post.