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

(Acting) Returning Officer - role and responsibilities

As (A)RO, you play a central role in the democratic process. Your role is to ensure that the election is administered effectively and that, as a result, the experience of voters and those standing for election is a positive one. You should set out at an early stage what you want to achieve and what success would look like for you. You must also consider accessibility for voters at polling stations. Our guidance on assistance with voting for disabled people provides further information.

As (A)RO you are personally responsible for the conduct of the UK Parliamentary election, including:

  • receiving the writ (where the RO has not reserved this duty)
  • publishing the notice of election
  • administering the nomination process
  • printing the ballot papers
  • publishing the notice of poll, statement of persons nominated and notice of situation of polling stations
  • the provision of polling stations
  • appointing Presiding Officers and Poll Clerks
  • managing the postal voting process
  • verifying and counting the votes
  • declaring the result (where the RO has not reserved this duty)

Your duties as (A)RO are separate from your duties as a local government officer. As (A)RO you are not responsible to the local authority but are directly accountable to the courts as an independent statutory office holder.

While you can appoint one or more persons to discharge any or all of your functions as (A)RO, you cannot delegate your personal responsibility for delivering the election.1  You can find further information in our guidance on the appointment of deputies.

Cross-boundary constituencies

Where the constituency crosses local authority boundaries, to deliver your functions effectively, there will need to be a close working relationship between you and the respective ROs and their staff. While the responsibility for the provision of polling stations and polling station staff for the polls rests with you, as (A)RO, you should seek advice and assistance, as necessary, from the local government RO and their staff for the other local authority area who will be more familiar with that particular area. 

Last updated: 19 December 2023