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

Managing receipt of postal votes handed in to the Returning Officer

For elections on or after 2 May 2024, there will be limits to the number of postal votes that can be handed in and restrictions on who the individual handing in the limited number of postal votes can be for each poll taking place. These restrictions will apply to all postal votes handed in to the Returning Officer or a person authorised to act on their behalf whether at polling stations or at locations, usually council offices, designated for that purpose by the Returning Officer. 

This section contains information about the normal procedure for postal votes being handed in to the Returning Officer at council offices. It also contains guidance about queries that may arise from handing in postal votes and situations where an authorised person has to reject postal votes that are handed in.

Anyone returning a postal vote by hand to the Returning Officer must complete a postal vote return form  A postal vote returned by hand that is not accompanied by a postal vote return form will be rejected.

An authorised person must deliver to the Returning Officer:1  

  • any postal vote that is handed in before the close of poll 
  • the postal vote return form completed in respect of it 

You should:

  • decide the location(s), dates and times where authorised persons will be able to receive postal votes delivered by hand
  • allocate sufficient authorised people to cover the location(s), dates and times and receive any postal votes handed in - wherever possible you should provide for postal votes to handed in at council offices up to 10pm on polling day
  • publicise in your communications with postal voters: 
    • the location (s), dates and times where authorised persons will be able to receive postal votes delivered by hand
    • that a postal vote return form must be completed when the postal vote is handed in
    • that postal votes can only be handed in to the Returning Officer or an authorised person
    • that postal votes left behind or handed in to a person who is not authorised will be rejected
  • ensure that only you or a person you have authorised to act on your behalf takes hand delivery of postal votes 
  • clearly signpost the location where postal votes can be handed in from the building entrance 
  • ensure the route is fully accessible or provide an appropriately signposted alternative
  • give details to other local authority staff, such as reception staff, of what to do if a person tries to deliver a postal vote to them and make it clear that they:
    • should not handle postal votes
    • should not offer to deliver them
    • should instead direct the person delivering the postal votes to you or the authorised person

You will need to decide how often the sealed packets of accepted and rejected postal votes will be delivered to you by the authorised person. 

You should ensure that authorised persons securely store the accepted and rejected postal votes handed securely until they are delivered to you, including where you are providing for postal votes to be handed in at council offices up to close of poll on polling day.

On the days leading up to polling day, your decision may be based on the timing of the opening of postal votes session for example. On polling day, you may decide to accept sealed packets of accepted and rejected postal votes throughout the day to ease pressure on the final opening session at the close of poll.
 

Last updated: 20 February 2024