What is advance voting?
Advance (or early) voting would give people the option to vote in person at a dedicated advance voting centre before the main polling day for an election. Voters wouldn’t have to make an application to use advance voting, they could simply turn up and vote at an advance voting centre as they would on polling day.
|Improving accessibility and voter choice about when and where to vote
|Finding suitable venues and ensuring they are accessible for all voters in the relevant electoral area
|Boosting levels of voter satisfaction in the voting process
|Having enough people to staff the venues
|Encouraging people who wouldn’t normally vote to vote, particularly if venues were in areas of high footfall
|Ensuring the secure storage of ballot papers and other election materials ahead of the count
|Updating electoral registers ahead of polling day
|Impact on the timing of political campaigning and coordination of public awareness activity
- 35% of the 204 countries they reviewed offered a form of advance voting to some electors (29% of countries) or all electors (6%).
- In October 2020 International IDEA research found that 14 European countries provided opportunities for early voting at polling stations.
Some countries require a voter to make an application to be able to use advance voting. Some provide advance voting to all voters, while others offer it only to those who meet specific criteria.
Advance voting is sometimes offered to voters only at their ordinary polling station, and sometimes at an advance polling station in another location, usually within the relevant constituency or other electoral area.
At the May 2022 local elections in Wales four local authorities trialled early voting. The pilots were well run by Returning Officers. Although there was no evidence that advance voting itself increased turnout, it was welcomed by those that used it and did offer additional choice for voters.
We looked at how advance voting could work at a basic level for elections in the UK. We have set out the main features of a model that we think would be needed if a government within the UK decided to implement advance voting.
We also looked at some other options that could be added to the basic model.
- Some models of advance voting are only available to specific groups of voters. For example, the 2022 Bridgend pilot scheme in Wales allowed pupils who were registered to cast their vote early in school.
- Voters could be required to give a ‘valid reason’ for needing to vote in advance. This could be because their official duties mean they can’t easily vote on polling day (such as polling staff or emergency services staff), because they have caring responsibilities, or would be outside the constituency on polling day.
- Restricting eligibility could reduce the cost effectiveness of the measures.
- Advance voting could be made available in places that are often used for polling stations, such as local council offices, libraries, schools or community centres. It could also be offered at less traditional locations, for example shopping centres, leisure centres or transport hubs.
- Voters could have the option to cast their vote at a venue outside of the area they are registered in. This could complicate the process as voters would need to be marked off the register as soon as they have voted to remove the risk of double voting.
- The Returning Officer could decide on how many advance voting centres are needed based on their knowledge of the area. This would be to ensure reasonable and equal access to voting in person.
Days and hours of operation
- There are various options for how many days the advance voting centres should be open, which include ensuring a balance between weekdays and weekends. Some voters may use the facility because of work or care commitments, so centres need to be open outside of normal business hours.
- Advance voting would need to work within the constraints of the electoral timetable. In theory, however, advance voting could begin as soon as practicable following close of nominations and the production of ballot papers.