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

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:


Last updated: 22 February 2024