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

Postal ballot pack envelopes

You must address the outgoing envelope to the elector at the address they have asked for their ballot paper to be sent to and which is shown in the postal voters’ list or the postal proxy voters’ list.1  

To preserve the secrecy of the ballot, you must provide two separate envelopes provided for returning the ballot paper and the postal voting statement:2  

  • Envelope ‘A’ – this is the envelope for the return of the ballot paper, which is to be marked with the letter ‘A’, the words ‘ballot paper envelope’ and the number of the ballot paper. 
  • Envelope ‘B’ – this is the covering envelope for the return of the ballot paper envelope (envelope ‘A’) and the postal voting statement. It is to be marked with the letter ‘B’ and your address. 

You should print the name of your constituency on all ‘A’ and ‘B’ envelopes. This will help to reduce instances of postal votes becoming undeliverable if, for example, a voter returns the ‘A’ envelope with both the ballot paper and postal voting statement inside it, without putting it in the ‘B’ envelope.

Envelopes for anonymous electors

Whenever you communicate with an anonymous elector you are required to send the communication in an envelope or other form of covering in such a way that does not disclose to any other person that the voter has an anonymous entry. 

You should therefore send postal ballot packs to anonymously registered electors in a plain outgoing envelope.3 The envelope should include their name and correspondence address, but must not include their elector number or make any reference to the election or electoral register.

Postage costs

Unless you are delivering postal votes by hand, you are required to pre-pay postage on the outgoing envelope addressed to the postal voter. 
You are also required to pre-pay postage on all return envelopes, except where postal votes have been sent to an address outside of the UK.4  

You should, however, explore with Royal Mail and the printer what you can do to facilitate the timely return of completed postal ballot packs from outside the UK, including the potential for the inclusion of appropriate pre-paid postage for items being returned from overseas. 

You could decide to use a different design of envelope for postal votes being sent to an address which is outside the UK. For example you could add a different colour flash. This may facilitate more efficient sorting, identification and prioritisation of overseas postal votes. 

Last updated: 19 December 2023