Running electoral registration - Scotland

Postal vote application deadlines

Applications can be made at any time, and you should process all applications as soon as possible. There are, however, deadlines in legislation by which postal vote applications must have been received in order to apply at a particular poll. 

Deadline for new postal and postal proxy applications5pm - 11 working days before the date of the poll1    
Deadline for changes (including cancellations) to existing absent voting arrangements  

5pm – 11 working days before the date of the poll2

Except in the case where a postal ballot paper has been issued before then and has been returned (but not under the lost / spoilt / not received provisions) - in that case, no changes may be made after the ballot paper has been returned.3

Deadlines for the receipt of postal vote applications at polls are statutory. There can be no extension to the deadlines for any reason. Postal vote applications received after the deadline for a particular poll cannot be accepted.

Where postal vote applications for a particular poll miss the application deadline, applicants should be notified that their application was not received by the statutory deadline and so cannot be allowed in respect of that poll. 

If the deadline to vote by proxy has not also passed you should highlight the option and include the relevant information about how an application for a proxy vote can be made. You should also provide them with information about how to make another postal vote application for future polls.

Applications for a longer term postal vote arrangement received after the deadline for a poll, must still be processed and determined but will apply for subsequent polls only.4  You should notify the applicants that they missed the deadline to be issued a postal vote for that particular poll, but that the postal vote will be in place for future polls. If the deadline to vote by proxy has not also passed you should highlight this option for the particular poll and include the relevant form. However, you should also note that should the elector choose a proxy for that particular poll the postal vote application processed for future polls will be cancelled and a new postal vote application will need to be made.

Recall Petitions

A person is entitled to sign a petition by post if they have been granted an application for a definite or indefinite period at parliamentary elections before 5pm on the cut-off day (3 working days before the first day of the signing period).

Where a person has been granted an application to vote by post for a definite period and that period expires during the signing period of a particular petition, that definite period is deemed to continue until the end of the signing period. Unless they apply to cancel their postal vote before 5pm on the eleventh day before the last day of the signing period.5

Calculating deadlines

Deadlines are calculated in working days by excluding Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.6

Bank holidays that apply when calculating postal voting deadlines are ones that apply anywhere across the area in which the poll as a whole takes place. So, at a UK Parliamentary general election, a bank holiday in Scotland will also apply in England and Wales. The only exception to this is where the proceedings at a UK Parliamentary general election in a particular constituency are commenced afresh because a candidate has died. In this case, only the bank holidays that apply in the affected area will be included in the calculation of the postal voting deadlines.

However, at UK Parliamentary by-elections and local government elections, only the bank holidays that apply in the area that has the election must be taken into account.7

Last updated: 12 December 2023