How to vote.
General Election day 2015 is Thursday 7 May.
Who can register?
UK, Irish and Commonwealth citizens with a UK residential address who are over 18 are eligible to vote in the 2015 General Election. For a list of Commonwealth countries click here
How to register
To be able to vote, you must register by midnight, 12 working days before the election – in the case of the 2015 General Election by midnight on Monday 20 April. You can register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales online here.
It takes about 5 minutes and you are asked to provide your nationality, name, date of birth, address including postcode and National Insurance number. If you do not have a National Insurance number, you will need to explain why and provide proof of identity by post. If you don’t know your postcode you can find it here.
When registering, you sign the form to declare you have given true information “to the best of my knowledge” and that you “understand that it is an offence to knowingly give false information in this form, and that I could face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months in prison” [for doing so].
What happens to your information?
The name and address of everyone registered to vote is listed in the Electoral Register. The Register is used to administer elections (e.g., ensuring only those registered are allowed to vote) and for a few other legally specified purposes, including detecting crime, checking applications for credit and contacting people for jury service.
The full Register for your area is publically available through your Local Electoral Registration Office; some local libraries also keep copies. Contact details for your Local Electoral Registration Office can be found by entering your postcode in the “Your local area” panel at the top right of this page. The British Library in London and National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh hold copies of the national Register.
There is little chance someone could use the Electoral Register to find out where you live as information is listed by address, rather than name, and addresses are divided by electoral ward. The Register is not systematically cross-referenced with data relating to immigration status.
It is only possible to register anonymously if you can prove you need to do so for safety reasons, with documents such as a court order or an injunction against someone who is trying to hurt you or written support from an organisation considered “relevant” by your Local Electoral Registration Office.
The “edited” or “open” Register can be bought by any individual, business or organisation (often businesses use this, e.g., as a way to confirm someone’s name and address). You can choose to exclude your details from the edited/open Register – this does not affect your right to vote.
How to vote in person
Registering to vote entitles you to vote at a polling station. Each voter is registered to vote at a specific polling station allocated by their local authority. Four days before the election you’ll be sent a polling card with details of the polling station where to vote. If possible take your polling card with you to vote; if you lose the card you can find details of your allocated polling station on your local authority website or through your Local Electoral Registration Office and will need to give your name and address in order to vote. Every polling station is open from 7am-10pm on polling day.
How to vote by post
Alternatively, you can apply to vote by post by downloading this form, or go to Apply to vote by post which must be returned to your Local Electoral Registration Office. The deadline to return your postal vote application form is by 5pm, 11 working days before the election – in the case of the 2015 General Election by 5pm on Tuesday 21 April.
If you are voting by post, your ballot paper will arrive at the earliest 14 days before the election. If you have not received it four working days before polling day (by Thursday 30 April), the Returning Officer at your local authority can issue a replacement up to 5pm on the day of the election. Postal votes are matched with applications for these votes by the signature and date of birth required on both forms. Postal votes must be returned to arrive by polling day and a Freepost envelope is included in your postal ballot pack for this purpose. If you are too late to post your vote back, on polling day you can hand it in to a polling station or to the returning officer at your local authority.
Miscellaneous and more information
It is also possible to register someone to vote for you if you have what is considered to be a good enough reason – see here for more information.
Applications to vote that are considered ineligible are seen only by your Local Electoral Registration Office and the applicant is informed that they are not eligible to vote. Information about ineligible applications may be destroyed immediately or stored for 12 months; during that time only your Local Electoral Registration Office can access this information.
To find out more about this process and the issues discussed above, see
- http://www.bl.uk British Library, holds a copy of the national Electoral Register
- http://www.nls.uk/ National Library of Scotland, holds a copy of the national Electoral Register
- Elections are regulated through legislation – see the numerous “Representation of the People” Acts available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/
General Election timeline
A one page poster of the key election dates – Download here