Make sure you're registered to vote in the 2021 elections. If you wish to vote by post or proxy apply now.

Election FAQs 2021

Frequently asked questions relating to 'registering to vote' and 'voting' on Thursday 6th May 2021.

Am I automatically registered on the electoral roll if I pay council tax?

There is no automatic registration, even if people pay council tax.

I'm a student and I'm not sure where I should register to vote.

Students may be entitled to register at both their home address and their college/university (term time) address.
It is an offence to vote more than once in a national election.

I'm homeless/live on a house boat/caravan/ in a mental hospital/remanded in custody. Can I register?

Yes. You can make something called a ‘declaration of local connection’. 
You can apply by filling in a ‘No Fixed Address’ form and posting it to your elections office.

What are the full and open registers?

The full electoral register lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in public elections. The register is used for electoral purposes, such as making sure only eligible people can vote. It is also used for other limited purposes specified in law, such as:

  • detecting crime (e.g. fraud)
  • calling people for jury service
  •  checking credit applications.

The open register is an extract of the electoral register, but is not used for elections. It can be bought by any person, company or organisation. For example, it is used by businesses and charities to confirm name and address details. 
Your name and address will be included in the open register unless you ask for them to be removed. Removing your details from the open register does not affect your right to vote.

Can British citizens living abroad vote?

British citizens living permanently abroad cannot vote at local government elections, but they can vote at UK Parliamentary elections for 15 years after leaving the UK.

Can I vote online or by telephone?

Unfortunately there is currently no facility to vote online or by telephone.

Why do I need to give my date of birth and signature to get a postal or proxy vote?

Postal and proxy voters must give their date of birth and signature when applying for a postal or proxy vote. Your signature and date of birth are separated from your ballot paper before being checked. Giving this information will not affect the secrecy of your vote. This requirement was introduced by the Electoral Administration Act 2006 to improve the security of postal and proxy votes.

If I have applied for a postal vote, can I still vote at the polling station?

If you have applied to vote by post, you cannot vote in person at the polling station. However, on Election Day you can return your postal vote to a polling station for your electoral area (before 10pm)

When would I need a proxy vote?

If you are unable to get to the polling station on Election Day, because of ill-health or you are away you can apply for a proxy vote. A proxy vote is when you appoint somebody to vote for you.

Who can be my proxy?

Anyone who is eligible to vote in the election themselves can be your proxy. However, you can only be a proxy for up to two people who are not members of your immediate family. They will be sent details on where to vote on your behalf a week or two before the day of the election.

What happens after I've applied for a proxy vote?

Your proxy must go to your local polling station to vote. They will be sent a proxy poll card telling them where and when to vote. You must let your proxy know how you want them to vote on your behalf, for example, which candidate or which party. If you are able to go to the polling station yourself after all, you can still vote in person as long as your proxy has not already done so.

I've been made a proxy for someone. What do I need to do?

You will be sent a proxy poll card with details of where you should vote. If you can’t attend the polling station you can vote by post. You must apply for this before 5pm on the eleventh working day before Election Day.

Can I still vote in person if I have a proxy set up and can make it to my polling station?

You are still able to cast your own vote as long as your proxy has not voted already. If your proxy goes to the polling station after you, he or she will not be allowed to cast your vote again.

Can I have a permanent proxy?

Permanent proxy voting is only available to certain people on the grounds of health, employment or full time education commitments.

When would I need a postal proxy vote?

If your proxy cannot attend your polling station in person for any reason on the day of the election, they can apply to vote by post.

Use the National Polling Station Finder service run by Democracy Club to find your nearest Polling Station.

I have lost or 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 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 and 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 or 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 or 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 or parties concerned and see if they can help you, although with COVID restrictions in place this may not be possible on this occasion.

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.

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 this has been done 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. Please check the pen is working correctly; if the pen leaks of smudges and the vote is unclear it may not be counted.  Due to COVID restrictions, we are recommending you bring your own pen or pencil to the polling station.

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.