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

The final opening of postal votes

In order to avoid any potential delay to the verification and count process(es), you should keep to a minimum the number of postal votes that have to be opened during the verification and count. You should ensure that any packets of accepted postal votes that have been handed in at polling stations or to council offices are delivered to you as soon as practicable.

This is particularly important as you must take reasonable steps to begin counting the votes as soon as practicable and within four hours of the close of poll.

You must ensure that the opening of postal votes, whether taking place at the verification and count or somewhere else, is carried out in full view of any candidates, agents and observers present.1

As with all other opening sessions, you are required to provide notice of the time and place of the final postal vote opening session.2

Following the completion of the final opening of postal votes, you are required to securely seal and store various receptacles and documents. You can find further information on this in our guidance: Ensuring the security of ballot papers and other materials

Keeping a record of incomplete postal ballot packs returned

You will have kept two lists of provisionally rejected postal ballot papers throughout the opening process:3  

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

After the last opening session, these will become:

  • the final list of ballot papers with no valid postal voting statement received, and 
  • the final list of valid postal voting statements received without some or all of the ballot papers 
Last updated: 20 February 2024