Guidance and resources for Returning Officers administering local government elections taking place in England and Wales, as well as our guidance for Combined Authority Returning Officers administering a combined authority mayoral election in England

This guidance has now been updated in advance of the May 2021 polls.

It has been developed based on the legislation as it currently stands and so it may be subject to change. We will update and republish the guidance as appropriate if new legislation is made ahead of the polls. We will inform Returning Officers of any updates through our EA Bulletin.

We are also publishing supplementary guidance to support administrators with preparing for and delivering the May 2021 polls against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. The first of these has now been published and others will appear here as they become available.

If you want to download emblems for political parties, visit our online database.


Part A

Returning Officer role and responsibilities

This part covers:

  • How to use this guidance
  • The Returning Officer's role, responsibilities, skills and knowledge
  • Our performance standards for Returning Officers

Part A: Returning Officer role and responsibilities (PDF)

Part B

Planning and organisation

This part covers:

  • Planning (including the identification and training of staff, the selection and booking of venues and management of contractors and suppliers)
  • How to maintain the integrity of the election
  • Raising awareness
  • Access to proceedings by electoral observers and Commission representatives
Part C

Administering the poll

This part covers:

  • The nomination period (including access to the register by candidates, spending limits and the nominations process)
  • The production of notices, poll cards and ballot papers
  • Polling station voting

Part F

After the declaration of result

This part covers:

  • Storage and disposal of documents
  • Post-election activities
  • Challenges to the result
  • Review of election procedures

Part F: After the declaration of the result (PDF)

CARO guidance

Guidance for Combined Area Returning Officers administering a combined area Mayoral election in England

This part covers:

  • Combined Area Returning Officer's role, responsibilities and knowledge
  • Our guidance and performance standards for Combined Area Returning Officers

Guidance for Combined Area Returning Officers - Delivery of key processes (PDF)