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

Identifying support staff from your council

You should identify support staff and ensure they are available to assist with any public enquiries you may receive in the run-up to the election. There may be opportunities to utilise your council’s existing support staff to perform this role.

The support staff that you utilise should be trained to understand that there are various barriers that disabled electors may face when accessing information or voting in a polling station. Disabled voters may contact the (A)RO to identify a particular area that they need support with in the polling station. You can find more information on understanding barriers to voting in our guidance.

Managing enquiries from the public

You should set up a dedicated team to deal with a range of basic enquiries, such as questions about whether or not a person is registered to vote, postal and proxy voting and the location of polling stations. Where you are not also the ERO, you will need to work with the ERO for your local authority as appropriate to facilitate this. 

Staff dealing with public enquiries should receive training to deal with them and also be provided with:

  • agreed responses to frequently asked questions
  • a list of the locations of polling stations
  • details of key dates in the election timetable 
  • details of the process in place to escalate more complex enquiries to the election team

We have developed a template of FAQs for front line staff which you can adapt to fit your local circumstances. 

If you are running a UK Parliamentary by-election you should contact your local Commission team for support and advice.

Processing applications

The ERO should consider whether they will need any additional support staff to assist with the processing of registration and absent vote applications in the lead-up to the election – and in particular in the lead-up to the registration deadline on the 12th working day before the poll. Where you are not also the ERO, you should liaise with them to understand how they will manage the likely increase in applications close to deadlines, so that all staff involved in the election and the managing of queries have a clear understanding and can inform electors appropriately.

Further information on processing registration and absent vote applications in the lead-up to an election can be found in the Running Electoral Registration and Absent voting sections of the Commission’s guidance for EROs in England, Scotland and Wales.

Receiving postal votes at the council offices 

For elections on or after 2 May 2024, postal vote handling rules apply. This requires a postal vote return form to be completed whenever postal votes are handed in to council offices or polling stations, and also  limits to the number of postal votes that can be handed in to the elector’s own and those of up to 5 other electors per poll taking place. The same rules make it an offence for a political campaigner at an election to handle the postal vote(s) of another person, unless that person is a close relative or someone for whom they or the organisation which employs or engages them provide regular care. This will apply to postal votes handed in at council offices. 

Only people authorised to act on your behalf can receive postal votes returned by hand to you. You should consider whether you will authorise additional support staff to assist with the receipt of completed postal votes that are returned by members of the public to council offices. 

You should keep a record of the people you have authorised to act on your behalf and receive postal votes returned by hand.

Our guidance about the procedure to be followed when postal votes are handed in to the Returning Officer at council offices has more information. 


Last updated: 10 April 2024