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

Securing ballot papers during breaks in proceedings

Where there is a break in proceedings, you will need to seal ballot papers in ballot boxes or another suitable container and store them securely during the break. 

On completion of the verification, you should place the ballot papers for any contests which are not being counted immediately after verification into ballot boxes which are then sealed. You must allow any agents present to attach their seals. 

In order to ensure the security of the ballot papers you could consider:

  • storing them in sealed ballot boxes in a locked room, ensuring that you have control of all the keys to that facility
  • arranging for security staff to guard the ballot boxes at all times until the verification/count resumes

You should liaise with your police SPOC when deciding on the most appropriate method for ensuring secure storage.

Once the verification/count has resumed, you should 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 boxes or ballot papers.


Where polls are combined it is likely that there will be a break in proceedings between the conclusion of the verification and the commencement of the count for one or more of the elections/contests. During that break, you will need to store the ballot papers securely.   

Last updated: 19 December 2023