Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

The issuing process

The processes to be followed when issuing postal ballot packs are provided for in legislation.1

Corresponding number list 

You must produce a corresponding number list at postal vote issuing sessions.

The corresponding number list is prescribed and must contain the ballot paper number and unique identifying mark of all ballot papers to be issued to that elector.2

When the ballot paper is issued, the elector number must be marked on the corresponding number list beside the ballot paper number and unique identifying mark.3

New lists and associated packets are required at every issue. The list could be printed single-sided and cut at the point where the last ballot paper was issued at any particular issue of postal ballot packs. The remaining corresponding number list can then be used at any further issuing sessions and for the issue of replacement postal ballot papers.

The corresponding number list relating to the ballot papers that have been issued must be sealed in a packet as soon as practicable after each issue of postal ballot packs, this can only be opened and inspected by the order of a court.4

The postal ballot pack

The number of the postal ballot paper(s) must be included on the postal voting statement to be sent with the ballot paper(s).5

The address to which the postal ballot pack should be sent is the address shown in the relevant postal voters’ list. In the case of a postal proxy, this is the address shown in the postal proxy voters’ list. In the case of an anonymous elector, the address can be found in the records of granted applications.

Our guidance on the production of postal voting stationery contains information on the content required for the postal ballot pack.

Marking the polling station registers

To indicate that an elector is entitled to vote by post and must not be given an ordinary ballot paper at a polling station, the polling station register must be marked with an ‘A’ using the information contained in the postal voters’ list and the postal proxy voters’ list. You should liaise with the ERO (where you are not also the ERO) to establish the latest practicable point for determination of applications, the process for both updating polling station registers and absent voting lists and communicating updates to polling station staff. 

A mark must be placed in the postal voters’ list (or the postal proxy voters’ list as the case may be) to show that a postal ballot pack has been issued.

You should maintain a clear audit trail of the issue of postal ballot packs. As part of this, you should ensure that the number of postal votes issued is accurately recorded at the end of each issuing session and when issuing replacement postal ballot packs. These numbers will be required for the completion of the statement as to postal ballot papers.

This table summarises the issuing process:

OrderAction to take
Step 1Read out the name and address of the postal voter from the postal/proxy postal voters list and check that those details appear on the outgoing envelope. 
Step 2

Read out the ballot paper number listed.

Check the numbers are the same on:

  • the back of the relevant ballot paper
  • the postal vote statement
  • the ballot paper envelope
Step 3

Make up the postal ballot pack into the outgoing envelope by including:

  • the ballot paper(s)
  • envelope ‘A’
  • the postal vote statement
  • the return envelope (envelope B)
  • any additional instructions
Step 4Mark the postal voters / proxy voters list to show you have completed the postal vote pack. 
Step 5Close the envelopes as requested by the supervisor. Do not seal them unless instructed. 

Who can attend the postal vote issuing process?

In addition to you and your staff, Commission representatives and accredited observers are entitled to attend the issuing process.6

If you have outsourced the postal vote issuing process, you should ensure that these people are able to access the premises of the company conducting the issue.

Anyone attending a postal vote issue session, including your staff, must be provided with a copy of the relevant secrecy provisions.7

Last updated: 22 February 2024