Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Archive brought to you by Cross Stitch UK

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Who can vote - UK general elections

You can vote in an election at a polling station. You can also vote by post or by applying for a proxy vote (getting someone else to vote for the candidate of your choice). Find out how to vote on election day and how to apply for a postal or proxy vote.

How to vote at a polling station

Register before you can vote

Follow the link below to find out how to register to vote

The council will send you a polling card just before an election that tells you where and when to vote. On election day, you go to the polling station to vote - usually a school, local hall or public building near where you live. Polling stations are open from 7.00 am to 10.00 pm.

Arriving at the polling station

When you arrive at the polling station, tell the people at the polling station your name and address. You can take your polling card with you to show who you are. The people at the polling station will give you a list of the people or parties you can vote for called a ballot paper. The ballot paper will tell you how many votes you have or you can ask a member of staff at the polling station for help.

Filling in your ballot paper

No-one is allowed to see who you vote for so make sure you vote in a polling booth which has a screen around it. Put an ‘X’ by the person or party you want to vote for. Fold your ballot paper in half and put it in the ballot box.

Who can vote in UK general elections

You can vote in UK general elections once you are on the electoral register and provided that you are also:

  • aged 18 or over on polling day
  • a British citizen, or a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Irish Republic (living in the UK)
  • not legally excluded from voting (for example, if you are in prison)

How to vote by post

If you live in the UK or abroad and apply in time, you can vote by post. Anyone can apply for a postal vote – you don't need to give a reason. A postal vote can be sent to your home address or to any other address that you choose. You can apply to vote by post for just one election, for a specific period, or permanently.

You'll need to give your date of birth and signature when you apply and again whenever you vote by post, in order to prove your identity. You should:

  • complete your ballot paper in secret
  • put it in the envelope provided
  • seal the envelope yourself
  • take it to the post box yourself, if you can

You can apply for a postal vote by printing an application form from About My Vote, or by contacting your local electoral registration office.

If you live in England and want to apply for a postal vote on your local council website, follow the link below.

Applying for someone else to vote on your behalf

If you live in the UK or abroad and you are unable to vote, you can ask someone to vote for you, and tell them who to vote for. This is called a proxy vote. You can apply to vote by proxy for:

  • one election
  • a specific period
  • permanently

You can only apply for a proxy vote under certain circumstances, which include:

  • being abroad on election day
  • having a disability
  • being unable to vote because of work reasons

There are different application forms that you should fill in depending on your circumstances. Someone like your doctor or course tutor may have to sign the proxy vote application form. Their signature is needed to confirm the reasons you have given for the application. Follow the link below to find out about proxy voting, including:

  • how to apply
  • downloading an application form
  • what a proxy voter does on election day

Who can’t vote at a general election

At a general election, the following people can't vote:

  • anyone under 18 years old
  • members of the House of Lords
  • European Union citizens
  • citizens of any country apart from the Irish Republic and Commonwealth countries
  • people serving a sentence in prison
  • anyone found guilty of breaking election law in the last five years

Making sure no-one interferes with the elections

There are laws and security measures to prevent people illegally interfering with the elections. It’s an offence to:

  • falsely apply for a postal or proxy vote
  • supply false information or fail to supply information to the electoral registration officer at any time
  • unduly influence someone, even if it doesn't affect the way they vote

After every election, a list of who voted by post will be published, so you can check that your vote was counted. You can apply to observe elections in polling stations, when postal ballot papers are sent out and received and when votes are counted.

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys