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

Engaging with voters

You must take appropriate steps to encourage the participation of electors in the election, and in carrying out such activity you must have regard to any guidance issued by the Electoral Commission.1  Part of this engagement activity should include how you will communicate the voting process and support available for disabled voters. This should be both directly with local disability organisations and more general signposting to accessible communications, such as providing online versions of documents that are easy-read, compatible with screen-readers, or available in large print.

Where you are not also the ERO, you should liaise with them to ensure that all of your activities are aligned and are designed to maximise impact ahead of the registration deadline. For more information on engagement as an ERO see our guidance on your public engagement strategy and registration plan.

Your activity and messaging should aim to ensure that everyone who wants to vote has the information to do so, and can vote using their preferred method. All outgoing communications should provide appropriate contact details to allow anyone to respond and obtain further information.

When planning your activity you should consider and document:

  • the identification of your target audience
  • the objectives and success measures of the activity 
  • any risks –and mitigation of those risks
  • resources – both financial and staffing
  • plans for collaborative working with relevant local partners, including experts in the communications department of the local authority

Cross-boundary constituencies

Where your constituency covers more than one local authority area you should ensure that you liaise with the ERO and elections staff from the other local authority/authorities to develop a coordinated plan for public awareness activity across the constituency.

Engaging with voters

You should identify the most effective methods to ensure your public awareness activity reaches as wide an audience as possible and that it provides essential information electors need to enable them to take part in the election. You should use your website, social media and traditional methods such as notice boards to communicate this information. 

Information required by electors in order to successfully participate may include:

  • details of the election itself
  • the date and hours of poll
  • different options for voting (e.g. in a polling station, postal or proxy voting)
  • the location of polling stations
  • any key deadlines (e.g. deadlines for applying for postal or proxy votes)
  • how to register to vote
  • requirement to show an accepted form of photographic ID in order to vote in a polling station
  • how to apply for a postal or proxy vote, including the requirement for ID checks
  • how to return their postal vote (e.g. by post or in person)
  • (for elections on or after 2 May 2024) the number of postal votes that can be handed in by an individual, and the restrictions on who can hand in postal votes.
  • how to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate or Anonymous Elector's Document
  • how to vote (i.e. how to mark the ballot paper)
  • assistance available to electors and how to request reasonable adjustments (e.g. equipment to enable disabled voters to vote independently in the polling station) and how to request information in alternative formats (e.g. braille, easy read, large print)
  • how votes are counted
  • how the result will be made known

In the lead-up to scheduled polls, the Commission may run a public awareness campaign to encourage registration. Such a campaign will usually involve mass media advertising, working with partners and public relations activities. We will also provide resources that can be used locally, such as posters, online banners, template press releases and social media content. 

The Commission provides public awareness resources to support electors in understanding the requirement for photographic ID in relevant election types. This includes resources specifically for different groups who might need greater support to provide acceptable forms of photographic ID.

The Commission will provide a suite of resources which can help you to promote information about the voting process and support available for disabled people, including resources which will signpost to guidance on accessible communications. This information is available with our guidance on Enabling and making voting easier in polling stations.

We will provide you with information on our public awareness campaigns via the EA Bulletin. We also publish a voter registration newsletter, Roll Call, which aims to help local council communications teams stay up-to-date with the latest campaign information and resources. You and your council communications team can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

The Commission also provides absent vote application forms to support electors in the postal and proxy vote application process. 

Enquiries resulting from public awareness activity

You need to consider how you will receive feedback and enquiries from both your general public awareness messaging and more focused activity such as specific assistance available for disabled electors.

While most public enquiries will be easy to manage via your contact centre or support staff you should have a clearly communicated process for reasonable adjustment requests.

Requests may include making polling station notices available in braille, easy read or in a pictorial format, or different types of equipment or support to enable a person to vote independently in a polling station such as audio devices or hearing induction loops.

Staff dealing with these types of enquiries will need to be trained to understand the barriers that voters may face, the different types of alternative formats for information that are available and the types of equipment that you provide in polling stations.

More guidance on managing requests for additional support and equipment to voters is available. 

Last updated: 19 December 2023