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

Production and publication of notices

When you are required to publish notices you should post them in conspicuous places within the electoral area. This should include local authority offices, noticeboards, libraries and other public buildings. The notice may also be given in such other manner as you think fit.1  

In order to ensure that voters can receive the information they need, in an accessible format and within time for them to cast their vote, you should ensure that information on the poll, including the notice of election and notice of poll, are easily accessible to voters, such as through the local authority website.

If you are making information available on your website you should ensure it is accessible to all voters. For example, if you are providing information in PDF format, you should be aware that if certain steps are not followed when creating PDFs they may not be compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies. The UK Government has produced a guide to producing accessible PDFs you can refer to. You could also speak to your authority’s equalities officer for advice. 

You should have robust proof-checking processes in place to ensure that there are no errors on the notices you are required to publish. Having robust proof checking processes in place could help detect any errors and avoid any potential data breaches before they occur.

Guidance on the design of voter forms and notices

The Commission’s Making your mark guidance is focused on the design of usable and accessible forms and notices that put voters’ needs first and enable them to vote confidently, according to their intentions. It provides guidance based on accepted industry good practice and findings from research with the public.

Translation and formats of notices

You are required, where you consider it appropriate to do so, to ensure that notices are translated or provided in another format. You may produce them:2

  • in Braille 
  • in languages other than English (or in Wales, English and Welsh) 
  • using graphical representations
  • in audio format3  
  • using any other means of making information accessible 

The nomination form and the ballot papers cannot be produced in any other language or format. However, both the enlarged hand-held and display copies of the ballot papers to be displayed in polling stations must have the instructions for voters printed at the top of the paper, and these words may be translated into languages other than English or, in Wales, English and Welsh.4  

Data protection considerations 

In accordance with data protection legislation, you will need to consider whether it is appropriate or necessary for the notices to remain published, on your website or elsewhere, beyond the expiry of the petition period for that election. Where the notices serve specific purposes, i.e. advising who will be a candidate at the election, once the election is over, and the opportunity to question that election has passed, they serve no further purpose. You should either remove the notices, or remove the personal data contained in the notices, once the petition deadline for the election has passed.

Data protection legislation does permit personal data to be stored for longer periods if the data will be processed solely for archiving purposes in the public interest, or for scientific, historical, or statistical purposes and subject to the implementation of appropriate safeguards. For notices of election results, for example, you should retain these on your website as they are for public interest and historical and statistical purposes.

You can find more information in our data protection guidance.

Last updated: 19 December 2023