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Information on voting, why you should vote, how to register and different ways to vote, including by proxy or post.

Register to vote

You cannot vote at an election unless your name appears in the register of electors. 

People can wrongly assume they're registered to vote when they are not for a number of reasons, including moving house and thinking you're automatically registered because you pay council tax, or turning 18 since the last election.

To find out if you're registered to vote contact your district, borough or city council.

Register to vote

The register is prepared by the electoral registration officer at the district, borough or city council.

The register is in force for a period of one year from 16 February each year. A person who has not reached the age of 18 by that date, but will do so during the life-span of the register, will have the date of their 18th birthday entered against their name. You cannot vote until you've reached your 18th birthday.

Each candidate is entitled to a copy of the register as far as it relates to the electoral area and the absent voters list.

Why you should vote

It's important to register to vote and use your vote as it gives you a say on who represents you on local matters such as:

  • how your council tax is spent
  • health and social care for you and your family
  • your community
  • local services like libraries
  • looking after the countryside
  • protecting your rights through trading standards
  • your roads, pavements and rights of way
  • your child's education

Voting in person

Poll cards are delivered shortly before an election. Each member of the household who is eligible to vote should receive a poll card which informs them of the date of the election.

Your poll card will tell you to which polling station you should go. This is often a community hall or school close to your home.

Polling stations are usually open between 7am and 10pm, but this will be confirmed for each election.

To vote at a polling station, you'll need to bring an accepted form of photo ID.

If you don't have accepted photo ID, you can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate. You must be registered to vote before you apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.

You don't need your poll card to vote.

When you arrive at your polling station, a staff member will ask for your name and check that you are on the electoral register. They will ask to see your ID, check that it's accepted, and that it looks like you. A private area will be available if you choose to have your photo ID viewed in private. This might be a separate room, or an area separated by a privacy screen, depending on the polling station.

Staff will issue you with a ballot paper. It will list the candidates you can vote for and will be marked with an official stamp.

You should take the ballot paper to the voting booth and mark with an 'X' the candidate you wish to vote for. Don't make any other marks on the ballot paper or your vote may not be counted.

Fold the ballot paper and deposit it in the ballot box. Don't show your vote to anyone else.

If you need help, or if you have a physical or visual impairment, ask polling station staff for advice. If you're disabled and need help to get to the polling station, contact your local elections office at your district or borough council to find out what help is available. You can also ask to have a companion with you when you vote.

Voting by post or by proxy

You can apply for a postal or proxy vote if you're unable to go to your polling station on election day. A proxy is someone who you nominate to vote on your behalf.

You may want to apply for a postal or proxy vote if:

  • you have a permanent physical incapacity, are registered blind or receive the higher rate of mobility component of the disability living allowance for a physical disability you are eligible for a permanent postal or proxy vote - the form requires the declaration that the information is correct from a doctor, nurse or warden of a home
  • your work frequently takes you overseas
  • you'll be on holiday when the election is taking place
  • you've moved house since you registered and are unable to go to your old polling station
  • you're working during all hours of voting, for example as a member of the election staff

You can apply for a postal vote when you register to vote. You can also do this through your district, borough or city council.

If you'd like to apply for a proxy vote you must contact your district or borough council. A request for an emergency proxy vote can be made to your district or borough council.