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

Receipt and management of ballot papers and election material at the verification

You should have a team of trained staff responsible for registering receipt of every ballot box, the postal votes and the other materials that have been delivered from polling stations and postal votes delivered to the Returning Officer at council offices.

You should organise the packets and parcels from polling stations so that you can easily locate any packet. 

The sacks containing the documents that need to be stored, including sealed corresponding number lists, sealed packets of rejected postal votes and accompanying packets of postal vote return forms, need to be separated from those containing items that will be reused, such as general stationery items.

You can then release the various materials received back from polling stations to the receiving staff in the relevant teams, to enable verification of the unused ballot papers and the opening of accepted postal votes to commence. These processes can run simultaneously to the verification of used votes. 

The following table summarises the action you should take for each type of sealed packet received:

Sealed packets receivedAction to take
Ballot paper accounts
Spoilt and unused ballot papers
  • Open, count and reseal all packets1
  • Supply the number counted to the verification staff
Tendered ballot papers and tendered votes list
  • Do not open the sealed packets of tendered ballot papers2  
  • Open and reseal the packet containing the tendered votes list and check it against the ballot paper accounts3
  • Corresponding number lists
  • Certificates of employment
  • Marked copies of the register
  • Lists of proxies
  • Rejected postal votes and the accompanying postal vote return forms
  • Do not open these packets4
  • Keep them sealed and placed in a designated and secure area for the duration of the verification and count
Accepted postal ballots handed in at the polling station or to the Returning Officer
  • You will need to undertake the final opening of postal votes handed in at polling stations 
  • You may do this either at the verification venue or at some other premises. In either case, you need to have a mechanism to record the number of postal votes received 

In line with your document retention policy, you should ensure that:

  • the materials that you must keep sealed are placed in a designated and secure area for the duration of the verification and count
  • any personal data is destroyed at the appropriate time
Last updated: 20 February 2024