When is the next general election, who can vote and what are the rules

When is the next general election, who can vote and what are the rules

A snap general election has been announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today and it will be going ahead just weeks from now.

The PM said in January he expected to head to the polls for this election "in the second half" of 2024. The BBC reports Sunak has claimed his pride in what the Tory Government has achieved and asked Brits the question, "who do you trust?".

So, as we head into another summer full of politics and debates, read on below to find out more about what a general election is, what it is for and who can vote in it.

How often are general elections held in the UK and who decides this?

The latest a Parliament can be dissolved for a general election is on the fifth anniversary of its first inception. For our current Parliament, this date is December 17, 2024.

Following this, 25 working days are then allowed for the Government to prepare for the election. So, the general election would need to be held by January 28, 2025.

The Prime Minister can call a general election at a time they choose, within this five-year period. Rishi Sunak became prime minister on October 25, 2022 when he succeeded Liz Truss.

How does the Prime Minster call a general election?

Stock image showing a woman’s hand filling in a postal ballot / voting form.
Anyone on the electoral register aged 18 or above on polling day can vote in the general election -Credit:Getty

The Prime Minster has to formally ask the King to "dissolve" Parliament, which is the official term for closing Parliament ahead of an election.

Politicians lose their status at this point and have to campaign with re-election if they want to carry on in the profession.

The Government also enters a pre-election period - previously known as 'purdah' - which restricts activity, both ministerial and departmental, during the campaign. More than 100 MPs have said they intend to stand down at the next election.

Who can vote in a general election?

Anybody on the electoral register aged 18 or over can vote on polling day in the general election. Those over 18 also have to be either a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a Republic of Ireland citizen with a UK address.

All UK citizens who live abroad can register to vote in the constituency where they were previously on the electoral roll - as long as they have not been legally excluded from voting.

You can register to vote at any time if you are 16 or older - or 14 or over in Scotland.

What do I need to vote in the general election?

Since May 2023, votes have to show a valid form of photo ID at a polling station in order to vote in person. There are 22 acceptable forms of ID to use, including:

  • Passports

  • Driving licences

  • Older or Disabled Person's bus passes

  • Oyster 60+ cards

You can use out-of-date photo ID as long as you look the same. No ID is needed to vote via post or you can apply for a free document called a Voter Authority Certificate if they don't have the appropriate ID to vote in person.

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