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

Last minute changes to polling stations

There may be circumstances (e.g., flooding, fire, vandalism) when a change of polling station is required at short notice. As part of your contingency planning, you should compile a list of stand-by or portable polling stations that could be used in such circumstances. Local authorities are responsible for designating polling places and polling districts and you must designate a new polling station within the same polling place.1  

Usually, if there is a need to change the polling place, council agreement will be required. If delegation procedures are in place, you should follow these and contact the person or persons who are entitled to make changes to the scheme of polling places.

However, flood, fire or vandalism occurring in the immediate lead-up to polling day could constitute a ‘special circumstance’, enabling you to designate a polling station outside the polling place without the need to seek council agreement.

You should amend and republish the notice of situation of polling stations to reflect any changes to your polling stations.

There are a number of mitigating measures you can take to ensure that electors who are affected by a late change to a polling station are able to vote with minimum disruption. You should have a protocol for what to do in case of a last-minute change. As a minimum, you should:

  • use social media to inform electors that there has been a change to a polling station
  • if time allows, send out a letter to all affected electors informing them of the change to their polling station
  • if time allows, use the local media to disseminate information to the affected electors – for example, through issuing press releases
  • put up signs at the old polling station informing electors about the change, including directions to the new one
  • display clear and visible signage at the new polling station 

Where any last minute changes to polling stations are required, ROs should ensure equipment to support disabled voters is still provided.

Last updated: 19 December 2023