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

Preparing election documents for storage

A full list of the documents you have a duty to forward to the relevant ERO in England and Wales, or in Scotland retain as RO, can be found here in our guidance on Forwarding or retaining election documents.

You should make sure that the packaging process is as transparent as possible. You should maintain a clear audit trail when packaging and (if required) forwarding the documents as this will help facilitate the retrieval of documents should anyone wish to inspect the public documents. 

The packaging and labelling system you use should both provide secure storage and support timely retrieval.   

A clear audit trail and transparent process can be achieved by:

  • producing clear labels for each packet 
    • you must seal all of the relevant documentation in separate packets1  and mark each packet with a description of its contents, the date of the election and the election to which it relates2  
    • the label must also include the name of the constituency and should state how long the packet is to be kept and when it is to be destroyed (unless otherwise directed by order of the House of Commons, the High Court (Court of Session in Scotland), the Crown Court or a magistrates' court)
    • the labels for documents open to public inspection and for documents that are not open to public inspection should be different. As a minimum, the packets containing documents not open to public inspection should clearly state this fact3  
  • ensuring that you have factored the parcelling up of documents into your verification and count planning. You can find more information in our guidance on planning for the verification.
  • covering packing instructions as part of your training for polling station staff and when training postal voting and count supervisors. Providing written instructions should also help to reduce the risk of documents being packaged wrongly. A template graphical guide to packaging materials at the close of poll is available, which you could adapt and provide to polling station staff. Staff should also refer to our polling station handbook.  
  • creating a list of all documents to be forwarded (where this is required). You should keep a record of all of the materials that you have a duty to send to the relevant registration officer, and ensure that all of the items are accounted for and delivered securely in accordance with data protection requirements. 

Polling station handbook – UK Parliamentary election (PDF) - We are updating this resource to reflect new measures introduced by the Elections Act 2022. It will be available again once the updates have been completed. If you are running a UK Parliamentary by-election you should contact your local Commission team for support and advice.

In England and Wales where you have forwarded documents to the relevant ERO, you should also:

  • record the number of parcels you have despatched
  • record the details of the ERO to whom they have been sent
  • obtain a receipt from the ERO confirming that the parcels have been safely received

It is important to ensure that all packets and receptacles containing election documents will be stored securely before being transferred to the ERO so that no unauthorised persons can tamper with them. 

Last updated: 19 December 2023