General Election 2024 - Postal vote, how to register and what to do if you're on holiday

-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The general election campaign is in full swing and with the bog day less than a month away voters in the UK will be expected to cast their vote. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed the date for the next general election.

Standing outside 10 Downing Street in the pouring rain last month, Mr Sunak announced the next general election will be held on Thursday, July 4. Many will now be considering the best way to vote.

If you know that you won’t be able to get to the polling station on polling day then voting by the post will be the best option for you. Here's everything you need to know about how vote by post.

Read more: The seat to watch in Wales on election night

Don't miss: What is my constituency for the general election

How do I make sure that I am registered to vote?

Firstly it is worth checking that you are registered to vote. To vote in any election in the UK you must be registered to vote. Checking if you are registered to vote is fairly simple and only requires a few minutes and your National Insurance number. You can register online or by downloading a paper form, which you can find out more here.

You don’t need to register to vote before every election but you must register to vote again if you've moved house. If you change your name for any reason you can either contact the electoral services team at your local council and request a change of name form or register to vote again.

If you're unsure if you have registered for a postal vote you can check by contacting the electoral services team at your local council to find out. If you're unsure who your local council may be the Electoral Commission website can find their details for you after you've provided your postcode. You can find out more about this here.

Rishi Sunak calls a General Election for July 4 in the rain in Downing Street
Rishi Sunak calls a General Election for July 4 in the rain in Downing Street -Credit:Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Why should I vote by post?

You should vote by post if you know that you won’t be able to get to the polling station on polling day. The reason for this may because you're away on holiday or due to your work schedule. You can also choose to vote by post simply because it is more convenient for you.

What is the deadline?

The deadline to apply for a postal vote for the general election is at 5pm on Tuesday, June 18.

How do I apply for a postal vote?

There are two ways to apply to vote by post. You can either apply through the website or by downloading, printing, and completing the postal vote application form. Whichever way you wish to apply you can find out more here.

You can choose to apply for a postal vote for a particular election, a particular type of election, or all elections you are eligible to vote in. If you only want to apply for a postal vote for a particular type of election you need to contact the electoral services team at your local council.

In order to apply you’ll need:

  • The address where you are registered to vote.

  • Your National Insurance number or other identity documents for example a passport.

  • The specific date of the election or referendum you want to make a postal vote if you only want a one-off postal vote.

  • You’ll also need to upload a photo of your handwritten signature in black ink on plain white paper.

If you cannot provide a signature or one that always looks the same you may be able to apply for a postal vote signature waiver within the service. You might be asked for extra documents to identify you. You can apply online to vote by post and need to prove your identity when applying. You also need to reapply for a postal vote every three years.

If you have a long-term postal vote that you applied for before October 31, 2023, this will now expire on January 31, 2026. In this case, the electoral services team at your local council will contact you before your postal vote expires.

How does a postal vote work?

Once you've applied for a postal vote you will be sent a postal vote ballot pack before the election. Once you've received this pack you have to ensure that you keep it somewhere safe. Don't let anyone else handle it and avoid leaving it where someone else could pick it up.

What do I have to do with my postal vote?

When you receive your postal voting pack you must:

  • Check the contents carefully: inside your pack should include instructions on how to cast your vote and how to return the postal vote as well as a postal voting statement. It should also include envelope A for your completed ballot paper, return envelope B, and the ballot paper or papers for the election taking place.

  • Complete the postal voting statement carefully following the instructions.

  • Read the instructions on the ballot paper carefully: some elections use different voting systems so you need to make sure you fill in each ballot paper correctly.

  • Complete your ballot paper: make sure you do it alone and in secret. Don't write anything else on the paper or your vote may not be counted.

  • Put your ballot paper in the smaller envelope.

  • Put your postal voting statement and the ballot paper envelope into the return envelope marked B and seal it. Make sure the return address is clear.

  • Put your postal vote somewhere safe until you're ready to post it.

How do I return my postal vote?

According to the Electoral Commission website you must return your completed postal vote as soon as possible by taking it to a post box yourself. If you can't post it yourself you can ask someone you know and trust to post it for you.

It is advised that you do not ask a candidate or party worker to post it for you. It is an offence for campaigners, candidates, and party workers to handle the postal votes of anyone who is not a close relative or someone they provide care for.

In order for your postal vote to be counted it needs to be with the elections team at your local council by 10pm on polling day. If you can't post your postal vote in time you can take it your polling station. You may also be able to hand it in to your local council office but you should contact your electoral registration officer to check if this is possible.

When handing in postal votes you will need to complete a form. You will need to include your name and address, how many postal votes you are handing in, and why you are handing in those postal votes. Campaigners can only hand in their own postal vote and postal votes for up to five other people that are either close relatives or someone they provide regular care for.

What if I want to cancel my postal vote?

If you want to cancel your postal vote you should contact your local council to request this. You must do so before 5pm 11 working days before the election you will be voting in. If you have already returned your completed postal vote you will not be able to cancel it for that election.

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