Help! How do I vote in the General Election?

A young woman leaves a polling station

Not sure how and when to vote? Don’t panic! 

The next UK General Election has been announced and will take place on 12th December. If you’re not quite sure how to register, what the deadlines are and how you need to vote – don’t worry, we’ve got you. Remember that no matter how you decide to vote on the day, your vote matters and it’s so important to have your say.

Politics has an impact on pretty much every aspect of life, and not just the big issues like climate change and poverty levels, but pretty much everything else too; from exams and getting a job, to what you eat and where you go out on a Friday night. Read our article to find out why you should give a shit about politics.

Can I vote?

You’re eligible to vote if you’re a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen, you’re living at a British address and you’re 18 or over on the day of the election.

I don’t know where to start…

If you’re feeling frazzled and you’re not sure how to vote, here’s our handy guide, including all the important deadlines you need to be aware of.

Get yourself registered

First thing’s first: if you want to vote, you need to make sure you’re registered. If you’re not sure whether you’re registered or not, you can check online with your local electoral registration office.

If you’re not already registered, you can register online. The process is very quick and simple and once you’ve filled in the online form, your local electoral office will be in touch to keep you updated about your registration.

If you’ve registered before but you’ve recently moved to a new address and you haven’t voted since you’ve moved, you’ll need to register again.

The deadline for online registration is 26th November at 11:59pm.

What if I want to register by post?

This isn’t a problem and anyone can vote by post if they want to. You can fill out a form here. If you want to apply for a postal vote, the deadline to do this is 5pm on 26th November. Once you’re registered, the postal vote must arrive at your electoral office in the UK by 10pm on 12th December (the day of the election).

If you live in Northern Ireland, you will need a different form to apply for a postal vote and the deadline is 5pm on 21st November.

Help! I’ve left it too late!

If you’re too late to post your ballot paper, don’t panic! You can take it to your local polling station or electoral registration office by 10pm on 12th December. If you live in Northern Ireland, just take it straight to your local electoral office by 10pm.

What if I’m on holiday or unable to vote in person on 12th December?

Don’t worry, you can register to vote by proxy, which means that someone else can vote for you. They must be registered to vote and legally allowed to vote in the general election. The deadline for registering to vote by proxy is 5pm on 4th December, or 5pm on 21st November if you live in Northern Ireland.

You can only register to vote by proxy if you are away on polling day, have a medical issue or a disability or because of reasons relating to work or military service.

You can apply to vote by emergency proxy if you have a medical emergency that takes place between the election day and six days before.

I’m a student living away from home – where do I need to vote?

There’s no need to miss out on having your say just because you’re studying away from home.

If you split your time between two addresses, you’re legally entitled to register at both those places. However, you’re not legally allowed to vote in both places in a general election. So, the easiest thing to do is work out which place you’re going to be at on the 12th December and choose the option that’s most convenient for you.

  • If you’re not sure which address you’ll be at you can register to vote in both places to leave your options open and then choose where to vote closer to the time.
  • You can register to vote at the local electoral office near where you study and vote there.
  • You can register to vote at your home address and vote there.
  • You can register for a postal vote for either your home address or your place of study

Where do I go if I’m voting in person?

Once you’re registered to vote, you’ll receive a polling card in the post, which will have the address and map directing you to your local polling station. You can vote there on the day of the election, and polling stations will be open from 7am – 10pm.

You don’t need to take your polling card with you and if you’re voting in England, Scotland or Wales, you don’t need to bring any ID with you. If you’re voting in Northern Ireland you’ll need to take a photo ID.

Once you get to the station there will be staff there who’ll give you your ballot paper and tell you what to do and where to put the paper once you’ve voted.

After that – your part is done! Then all you need to do is wait for the results…

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 19-Nov-2019