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

Poll Card delivery

You must send out poll cards as soon as practicable after the publication of the notice of election.1   

A poll card must be sent to the elector’s qualifying address or, in the case of a proxy, to the proxy’s address as shown in the list of proxies.2    

For anonymous electors, you must send their poll card in a covering envelope to the elector’s qualifying address.3   

In order to ensure that voters receive the information they need and within time for them to cast their vote you should ensure that poll cards can be received by voters as soon as possible, so that they have the maximum amount of time to change their registration details or apply for an absent vote. This could, for example, include publishing the notice of election as soon as the writ is received. Once the notice of election has been published, the poll cards can be issued.

You will need to determine the optimum distribution date for poll cards and you should focus on when electors will expect to receive their poll cards.

Poll cards may be delivered by hand, by post, or by some other method determined by you as the most appropriate.4  

Delivery by hand 

If you deliver poll cards by hand you should plan for how this will work in practice. You should appoint sufficient staff to ensure that voters receive poll cards as soon as possible to maximise the time they have to change registration details or apply for an absent vote. You should clearly set out in your instructions to staff the last day by which you would expect all poll cards to have been delivered.

You should ensure that staff are aware of data protection considerations, and should consider requiring staff to confirm in writing at the point of recruitment, that they will abide by your data protection policy.

You should monitor delivery, to ensure that poll cards have been delivered across the whole of the constituency and to agreed timeframes. This may include requiring delivery staff to fill in log sheets and having supervisors carry out spot-checks.

Delivery by post

You may use Royal Mail or any other commercial delivery firm for the delivery of poll cards. If you deliver poll cards by post, you should liaise with your postal services provider to agree timescales for delivery and obtain any proof of postage that the firm provides.

You should monitor the delivery of poll cards, to ensure that they have been delivered across the whole of the constituency and to agreed timeframes. If possible, you should have arrangements in place to track deliveries to assist with responding to any enquiries from electors. 

Your contingency planning should address how you would issue any poll cards, in the event that Royal Mail or the commercial delivery firm you have contracted are unable to deliver the poll cards, for example, due to industrial action.

Last updated: 26 March 2024