Everything you need to know about voting in person

Everything you need to know about voting in person

Campaigning is well underway and ballot papers are being prepared as the UK general election draws closer.

Here’s a useful guide to what to expect when you cast your vote on Thursday 12 December. 

Before you go

You must already be registered

To be able to vote, you must be registered. You cannot do this on the day: the deadline for registering for this election was midnight on Tuesday 26 November. 

Where to go

If you have registered, you should have received a poll card through the post from the Returning Officer who is responsible for running the election in your local area. It tells you which polling station to vote at.

Make sure you check your poll card before heading out to vote, in case your polling station has changed since you last voted. You can also find out where your polling station is on our website.

And don’t forget, you need to go to your designated polling station: you can’t go to a different one, for example, near where you work. 

When to go

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm, 12 December. You can cast your vote at any time within this window. 

Casting your vote should only take a few minutes. 

Polling stations can get busy, however, especially towards the end of the day, and sometimes there can be a queue. If you arrive at your polling station and are in a queue waiting to vote at 10pm, you will be able to vote.

What to take with you

In England, Scotland and Wales, you don’t need to take anything with you. However, if you do take your poll card with you, it helps to speed up the process.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you must take a valid form of ID, detailed here.

Who to take with you

You can go along to the polling station with whomever you like, but only those registered to vote at that station will be able to go inside. You must not be accompanied into the polling booth by another adult, unless you have a disability, in which case you can take someone in to help you or ask one of the polling station staff for their help.

Animals, apart from assistance dogs, are not usually allowed inside polling stations so will need to be secured outside if you do decide to take them with you. 

Voting with children

Children are welcome at polling stations. While your child must not mark the ballot paper for you, you will be allowed to take them into the polling booth with you. 

Preparing for bad weather

Local councils have experience of providing public services throughout the year and will have contingency plans in place to help them respond quickly to minimise any disruption to polling, and will do everything they can to ensure voters are able to cast their vote on 12 December. 

While you're there

Tellers

You might see people outside the polling station who ask you for the number on your poll card. These people are called 'tellers', and are volunteering on behalf of candidates or parties. They use the information people give them to check who has voted, and remind people who haven't to do so.

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 conduct of a teller, speak to a member of staff at the polling station.

What happens when you get there

Polling stations are usually set in schools or community buildings, like Scout huts or church halls. There may be a queue to enter, otherwise you can walk right in.

Inside, the polling station staff – known as poll clerks - will be at a desk, waiting to greet you. Give your name to the poll clerk and show them your poll card if you have it with you.

The staff will give you a ballot paper listing the candidates you can vote for.

Take your ballot paper into a polling booth. There will be a shelf for you to lean and write on, and a pen or pencil for you to use, usually secured with string to stop it from going missing. 

You don't have to use pencil

Pencils are generally used to mark ballot papers for practical reasons: ink may dry or spill, or could smudge and transfer when the ballot paper is folded, which could lead to your ballot paper being rejected. But this is not mandatory - you can use your own pen if you prefer.

Completing the ballot paper

Take your time: read the ballot paper carefully and complete it in line with the instructions. You will need to mark a single ‘X’ in the box next to the candidate you wish to represent your constituency in the House of Commons.

Don't write anything else on the paper, or your vote may not be counted. 

If you make a mistake, don't worry – as long as you haven't already put it in the ballot box, just let the polling station staff know and they can give you a replacement ballot paper.

The ballot box

Once you're done, fold your completed ballot paper in half and put it in the ballot box. This will be on the desk beside the poll clerks.

Accessibility

If you have a disability which means you can't fill in the ballot paper yourself, you can ask the presiding officer – the person in charge of the polling station - to mark the ballot paper for you, or you can take someone along with you to help you.

If you have a visual impairment, you can ask for a large print ballot paper to refer to when you cast your vote, or a special tactile voting device that is designed so you can mark your ballot paper on your own. 

Ask for help

If you're not sure what to do, or need any help, just ask the staff at the polling station – they will be happy to assist you.

Afterwards

You do not need to tell anyone how you voted

Your vote is yours and yours alone: you do not need to tell anyone how you voted. 

Exit polls are sometimes conducted, where people – usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters – ask voters leaving the polling station who they voted for in order to gain an indication as to how an election has turned out. You do not need to respond to their questions if you don’t want to.

Political discussion is not allowed inside and immediately around the polling station and staff will ask you to stop so that there’s no risk of influencing other voters. If you want to debate your vote with friends or family, do it away from the polling station.

Photos, selfies and tweeting

You shouldn’t take photos inside the polling station as it might risk the secrecy of the ballot.

You are more than welcome to take photos outside the polling station and share them on social media to encourage your friends and family to vote. 

You can publicise your own vote if you wish, but it is an offence to reveal someone else's vote or to influence them to do so if they don’t want to.

The count and the results

Polls close at 10pm and Returning Officers will begin the count as soon as practicable within four hours after the close of the poll. Most of the results will be declared early on Friday 13 December. Your local authority may be able to provide a projected time for your constituency.

What if emergency

In case of emergency

If you become ill or are called away on work after 4 December, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote and have someone you trust vote on your behalf.

You must apply by 5pm on polling day using the forms here.