Voting at the polling station, by post and by proxy

Voting at the polling station

About voting at the polling station

When you vote at the polling station, you are voting in person by completing a ballot paper and putting it into a ballot box during specific hours on polling day.

To vote at the polling station, you must be registered to vote and go to the polling station allocated to you based on your address on the electoral register. You cannot go to any polling station in the area.

From 4 May 2023, all voters at the polling station will need to show an accepted form of photographic identification to be able to vote. See below for more details.

Preparing to vote at the polling station

There are several things you should think about before you decide to vote at the polling station. It is a good idea to think about these well in advance to make sure you have enough time to make arrangements if you need to.

Check where your polling station is

It might not be the closest one to where you live, or it might have changed since the last time you voted. Your poll card, which you’ll receive through the post a few weeks before polling day, will tell you where you need to go, or you can visit Find my polling station

Think about how you will get to your polling station

You cannot change your allocated polling station so if it will be difficult for you to get to that location, you will need to consider a postal or a proxy vote. You can find out how to apply for either of these below, but you will need to do this in advance of polling day.

If you find that you cannot get to the polling station at short notice, see What if I can’t get to my polling station at the bottom of this page.

Get your photo ID ready

Only certain types of photo ID will be accepted at the polling station. These include: 

  • A passport*
  • A photographic driver’s licence*
  • A provisional photographic driver’s licence*
  • A biometric immigration document
  • A European Economic Area (EAA) photographic ID card
  • An identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standard Scheme hologram (PASS card)
  • A Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)
  • A Blue Badge
  • An Older Person’s Bus Pass
  • A Disabled Person’s Bus Pass
  • An Oyster 60+ Card
  • A Freedom Pass

*Document must be issued by the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth Country.

You will need to bring the original document with you as we cannot accept a photocopy or a photograph.

If your accepted ID has expired you can still use it, but it should still be a good likeness to you.

What if I don’t have an accepted photo ID?

If you don’t have a document from the list above, you can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate. This is a free form of photo ID that can be used for voting purposes only.

You do not need to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate if you have one of the accepted ID documents listed above.

You can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate online. You’ll need your National Insurance number and a passport-style photograph of yourself to complete the application.

Apply for a Voter Authority Certificate (GOV.UK)

If you need a Voter Authority Certificate to vote at the polling station at local elections on 4 May 2023, you must apply by 25 April 2023 at the latest.

If you’re not able to complete your application online or you need assistance to take a suitable photograph, contact Electoral Services using the details at the bottom of this page. 

What if I lose or damage my photo ID?

If your photo ID becomes lost, destroyed, damaged beyond use or is stolen prior to polling day, provided the deadlines for other voting methods have not passed, you will be able to apply for a temporary Voter Authority Certificate. This is a free form of photo ID that will be valid for the current election only.

If the deadline to apply for a temporary certificate has passed, you will be able to apply for an emergency proxy up to 5pm on polling day.

If you think you will need to apply for an emergency proxy, please contact Electoral Services directly for advice using the contact details below.

Polling station opening times

On polling day, polling stations are usually open from 7am to 10pm. They can get busy, particularly towards the end of the day. If there is a queue at your polling station, you will still be able to vote as long as you joined the queue before 10pm.

How to vote in person at the polling station

There will be at least two members of staff in the polling station - a presiding officer and one or more assistants (poll clerks).

  1. At the desk, tell a member of staff your name and address. They will check this on the electoral register to make sure you are registered and eligible to vote in the election or referendum. If you have your poll card, you can give this to a member of staff. You do not need your poll card to vote, but it can help to speed up the process. 
  2. The member of staff will ask to see your photo ID or Voter Authority Certificate. You will need to show them the original document and remove any face coverings you are wearing. If you would like to remove your face covering in private, for religious reasons for example, you can ask the member of staff to take you to a private area to do this. If there is a queue, you may be asked to show your ID before you get to the desk. 
  3. The member of staff will then give you a ballot paper listing the candidates you can vote for. You might be given more than one ballot paper if there is more than one election taking place in your area on the same day.
  4. Take your ballot paper (or papers) to a polling booth. The booth allows you to cast your vote in secret.
  5. Cast your vote by putting a cross next to the name of the candidate (or candidates) that you would like to vote for. Make sure you read the instructions in the booth and the ballot paper carefully to make sure you vote for the correct number of candidates. If you vote for more candidates than you are allowed, your vote will not be counted.
  6. Do not write anything else on the ballot paper as your vote may not be counted. 
  7. If you make a mistake on your ballot paper, don’t put the ballot paper in the ballot box or the bin. Return the ballot paper to the polling station staff and ask for a replacement ballot paper. 
  8. When you are done, fold your ballot paper in half once and put it in the ballot box.

Asking for help in the polling station

If you’re not sure what to do or you need help, you can ask the polling station staff. They wear badges so that you can see who they are inside the polling station.

There are some things at the polling station that are available to help, including a large print sample ballot paper, a magnifier, and a ‘tactile voting device’ to help if you have a visual impairment.

You can take your phone into the booth to use a magnifier, text-to-speech apps or a torch to improve the lighting, but you must not take any photos inside the polling station.

You can also ask the presiding officer to assist you to fill in your ballot paper or take a companion into the booth with you. The presiding officer will need to make a record of this, so make sure that you tell the presiding officer when you arrive.

Tellers

There might be people waiting outside the polling station and they may ask you for the number on your poll card.

These people are volunteering on behalf of candidates and are called ‘tellers’. They use the information people give them to check who has voted.

They are allowed to be there and to ask for the information, but you don’t have to give them any information if you don’t want to.

If you are concerned about the behaviour of a teller, speak to a member of staff at the polling station.

What if I can’t get to my polling station anymore?

If you are suddenly unable to get to your polling station on election day, there are some alternatives ways to cast your vote. However, the alternative you can use depends on how close it is to polling day.

Up to 5pm, 11 working days before polling day, you can apply to vote by post

Up to 5pm, 6 working days before polling day, you can apply to vote by proxy

If you find out after 5pm, 6 working days before polling day that you are unable to get to the polling station, you can apply to vote by emergency proxy. This is when you nominate someone you trust to go to your polling station and fill in your ballot paper for you. This should be someone you trust will fill out your ballot paper as you would like.

An emergency proxy can only be granted if you find out that you cannot go to the polling station because of work, school, or a medical emergency after the deadline to apply for an ordinary proxy. You can apply for an emergency proxy up to 5pm on polling day.

If you think you will need to apply for an emergency proxy, please contact Electoral Services directly for advice using the contact details below. 

Last updated: 16/01/2023 10:13