Code of Conduct for Campaigners at UK Parliamentary general elections in Great Britain, local elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections

Postal voting documents

Campaigners must never handle anyone else’s postal voting documents

The term “postal voting document” covers a postal ballot paper, a postal voting statement, a declaration of identity, envelopes for returning postal voting documents, and an envelope containing a postal ballot pack. 

It is a criminal offence for a campaigner to handle another voter’s postal voting documents. The offence applies to candidates and political parties, and those connected with, employed or engaged by candidates and parties – please see the terminology section. It carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison, a fine, or both; and prohibition from standing for electoral office and from voting for a period of 5 years. 


There are two exemptions to this offence: 

  • Campaigners are permitted to handle the postal voting documents of a spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild, someone they are cohabiting with, or someone they provide care for.  
  • Campaigners are permitted to handle postal voting documents if that is included in the duties of a job or role they hold, and the handling is consistent with those duties. These are postal workers, people involved in running elections, and people who hold roles in organisations or communal buildings where collecting postal votes is part of the role.  Examples would be volunteering for a community organisation that assists disabled voters or working in a care home. 

If you are asked for assistance in completing a ballot paper, you should always refer the voter to the Returning Officer’s staff at the elections office who may be able to arrange a home visit if necessary. Assistance will also be available for electors at polling stations.  

Campaigners must never observe voters completing their ballot paper.

Campaigners must never observe voters completing their ballot paper. If you are with a voter when they complete their ballot paper, remember they must always complete it in secret.

It is a criminal offence to attempt to obtain, or to communicate, the number, official mark or other unique identifying mark from a voter’s postal ballot, or which candidate the voter has voted for. The maximum penalty for this offence is a 6-month prison sentence or a fine. (This offence applies to everyone whether they are a campaigner or not.)

You should ensure that the voter seals both envelopes personally and immediately after completing their ballot paper and postal voting statement. If you are asked to give advice, it is acceptable and often helpful to explain the voting process, but do not offer to help anyone to complete their ballot paper.  Wherever practical, you should encourage voters to post or deliver the completed postal ballot pack themselves. If you are approached or asked for help by a voter who is unable to post their completed postal ballot pack or make any other arrangements for it to be returned in time, you should contact the Returning Officer to ask them to arrange for it to be collected. 

Last updated: 18 April 2024