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

Ensuring the security of ballot papers and other materials

You should take all necessary steps to ensure the security of ballot papers and relevant stationery from close of poll through to the declaration of the result, particularly where ballot papers need to be transported from the verification to the count or where a break in proceedings will require the ballots to be stored between the conclusion of the verification and the commencement of the count.1

If you need to store ballot papers, you must store them in sealed ballot boxes in a secure place, allowing agents to attach their seals to the ballot boxes.2 You should always open the sealed ballot boxes in clear view of any candidates and agents present, so they can satisfy themselves that nobody has interfered with the ballot papers and the ballot boxes.

You can liaise with your local police Single Point of Contact (SPOC) when deciding on the most appropriate method for ensuring secure storage, and should ensure you brief candidates and agents about your arrangements, so that they can have confidence in the integrity of the count.

You will also need to ensure any personal data is destroyed at the appropriate time, in accordance with your document retention policy

Risk assessments

You need to ensure you have processes appropriate to the risk in place to ensure a level of security of personal data included on the ballot papers and other paperwork from the polling station. 

As part of your contingency planning you have considered security risks and included them on your risk register. Security risks may vary within the electoral area and you may need to take a different approach in particular instances.  

Further information can be found in the guidance on planning for the verification and count.

Last updated: 19 December 2023