Home / Women in Focus / Personal Life / Registering and voting: everything you need to know

© Brand X Pictures
Women in Focus

Registering and voting: everything you need to know

by the editorial team Published on 16 April 2010

The general election is fast approaching, and 20 April (Tuesday) is the last day to register if you want to vote on 6 May. Not sure how to do register? Can’t remember whether you’re registered or not? Or just not sure how to vote? Read on. And if you have more questions, visit aboutmyvote.co.uk.

How and where can I register to vote?
You have to fill out and return a registration form by Tuesday, 20 April, to be eligible to vote in this year’s election. To get a form, either call or visit your local electoral registration office, or fill out, download and print a form from aboutmyvote.co.uk.

And if you miss the deadline for the 6 May election, you can still register to vote now for any future elections. The electoral register is updated every month, though most people register between September and November when the local council mails registration forms to residents’ homes. This is called the annual canvass. During this time, all you need to do is fill in the form and return it to your local electoral registration office. (The exception is Northern Ireland, which no longer does an annual canvass.) Otherwise, you can always find the forms online here.

Am I eligible?
You are eligible to register to vote in UK elections if you are at least 16 years old and:

• a British citizen
• or an Irish, Commonwealth or European Union citizen who is resident in the UK

If you are 16 or 17, you will be able to register only if you will be 18 within the lifetime of the electoral register. You will not be able to vote until you are 18.
Click here to see a list of Commonwealth and EU countries. If you are a citizen of one of these countries and a resident in the UK, you are eligible to register to vote.

If you live overseas, you are eligible to vote as long as you’ve been registered in the UK within the last 15 years. More information for UK citizens living overseas can be found here.

How do I know if I’m already registered?
In Britain, electoral registration is managed by registration offices in local authorities; in Scotland it may be a separate office; and in Northern Ireland it is the electoral office. Contact the electoral registration officer in your area to determine whether or not you are registered. You can find their contact details by entering your postcode on aboutmyvote.co.uk.

How do I vote?
Generally, most people vote by going to a polling station on election day. But if you will be out of town on election day, or otherwise unable to get to the polls in person, you can apply to vote by post or by proxy (designating someone else to vote at the polls on your behalf).

You do not need to provide a reason to vote by post. Ballots generally arrive a week before election day, and must be marked and returned as soon as possible. If your ballot does not arrive before the closing of polls on election night (10pm) it will not be counted. AboutMyVote has more information here.

You do, on the other hand, have to provide a reason if you want to vote by proxy – just an indication of why you are unable to make it to the polls yourself. You generally have to apply to vote by proxy at least 6 days before an election, except in case of medical emergency. AboutMyVote has more information here.

Click here for more general information on the General (UK Parliamentary) elections.

You might also like