Guidance for Returning Officers administering Local Government Elections in England

Emergency proxies

An elector may find that they are unable to go to the polling station after the deadline for arranging an ordinary proxy has passed. An elector may appoint an emergency proxy to vote on their behalf at the polling station in certain circumstances:1

  • in the case of a disability (whether a medical condition, illness or otherwise) arising after the deadline for ordinary proxy applications (i.e. after 5pm on the sixth working day before the poll)
  • if they are a mental health patient detained under civil powers (i.e., who are not also detained offenders)
  • if their occupation, service or employment means they cannot go to the polling station in person, provided that they only become aware of this fact after the deadline for ordinary proxy applications (i.e. 5pm on the sixth working day before the poll)
  • if they meet any of the conditions relating to emergency proxies on the grounds of voter identification after the deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate or Anonymous Elector’s Document (i.e. 5pm on the sixth working day before the poll). Further information can be found in our guidance on emergency proxies relating to voter identification

Electors can apply for an emergency proxy after the deadline for normal proxy applications has passed (i.e. after 5pm on the sixth working day before the poll) up until 5pm on polling day. If you are not also the ERO, you should agree a method with them for communicating any additions to the list of proxies that result from the granting of emergency proxy applications.

Whenever an emergency proxy has been appointed, you should inform the appropriate polling station staff as soon as possible after the proxy has been appointed, and by any means available to you.

Someone appointed as an emergency proxy will be required to produce photographic ID at the polling station to prove their identity before they can be issued with a ballot paper. Wherever possible, the ERO should provide the proxy of any voter whose application has been accepted with a letter authorising them to act as a proxy, which should include details of the person on whose behalf they are voting. The ERO should advise the proxy to take that authorisation with them when they go to vote and to hand it to polling station staff. If such a letter is provided at the polling station, polling station staff should mark it to show that the proxy has been issued with a ballot paper and the marked letter should then be retained with the list of proxies.

The ERO should also, where possible, provide a supplementary list of proxies which can be issued to the relevant polling station and added to the list originally supplied.

The agreed method for communicating additions to the list of proxies on polling day should be covered at the training session for polling station staff. Further information on training polling station staff can be found in our guidance on staffing and training.

You could ask polling station inspectors to liaise with the electoral registration office regarding emergency proxy applications granted on polling day and should advise them of the procedures to be followed. You can find more information in our guidance on emergency proxies

Last updated: 28 March 2023