Guidance for Returning Officers administering Local Government Elections in England

Process for opening postal votes

The process for opening postal ballot packs is set out in legislation:

Stage 1: opening of the postal voters’ ballot box1  

  • count and record the number of returned postal ballot packs (i.e., the number of envelopes ‘B’ in the postal voters’ ballot box)
  • open covering envelope ‘B’ and remove the postal voting statement and ballot paper envelope
  • check the number on the postal voting statement matches the number on the ballot paper envelope (envelope ‘A’)
  • place a mark in the postal voters’ list or postal proxy voters’ list as appropriate to show that a postal voting statement has been returned 

Stage 2: checking the personal identifiers2

  • check that the elector has signed the statement and given a date of birth
  • check the signature and date of birth on the postal voting statement matches those on the personal identifiers record 
  • if you reject a postal voting statement, you must mark the statement ‘rejected’, attach to it the ballot paper envelope (if there is no such envelope you must attach it to the ballot paper) and place it in the receptacle for rejected votes. Before placing it in the receptacle, you must show it to the agents and, if any of them object to your decision, add the words “rejection objected to”. You should also record the reason for the rejection.

Stage 3: opening of postal ballot paper envelopes3

  • open the ballot paper envelope (envelope ‘A’) and remove the ballot paper ensuring the ballot paper is kept face down at all times
  • check the number on the ballot paper envelope (envelope ‘A’) matches the number on the back of the ballot paper
  • place the ballot paper in the postal ballot box

Stage 4: sealing the postal ballot boxes4

  • Count and record the number of postal ballot papers to be sealed in each postal ballot box.
  • Seal and securely store the postal ballot boxes.

A summary of this process is available in the following postal vote opening flowchart:

You should batch ballot papers in such a way as to ensure that you will be able to retrieve and cancel any particular ballot paper (for example, because you have had to re-issue following a procedural error).

For this reason, and also because of the need to verify the contents of all postal ballot boxes at the verification, you should consider how many ballot papers you want to store in each box.

Matching up postal voting statements with postal ballot papers

You must keep two lists of provisionally rejected postal ballot papers:5   

  • one to record the ballot paper number of any postal ballot paper that has been returned without a postal voting statement
  • one to record the ballot paper number on any postal voting statement that was not returned with the ballot paper

The following template spreadsheet is available that you can use for this purpose: 

You should check these lists regularly to ensure that any mismatched documents can be matched up, enabling those postal ballots to be re-introduced into the process.

Diweddarwyd ddiwethaf: 1 Mai 2024