How to register to vote for a general election and other questions

Polling station

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Huw Evans picture agency

MPs may have rejected calls for an early general election – but an autumn poll is widely expected. These are the key facts about being ready to vote.

Who can register to vote in a general election?

Anyone on the electoral register aged 18 or above on polling day has a vote. You have to be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. Although a date has not been set for a general election, you can register to vote at any time if you are 17 – or 15 in Scotland. You need to register at least 11 working days before an election.

How do I check if I am registered to vote?

You may already be registered. Contact your local electoral registration office to check. Each UK local authority manages an electoral register listing the names and addresses of eligible voters in the area. Contact details for England, Wales and Scotland are on the Electoral Commission’s Your Vote Matters website, and for Northern Ireland on its electoral office website.

Can I register to vote online?

You can register on the government’s website. The service is also available in Welsh. You will need your National Insurance number, date of birth and address. The process takes about five minutes. You can register by post by filling in a paper form, although a different form is used in Northern Ireland.

Can I register to vote without my National Insurance number?

You can still register but you must explain why you cannot provide it and will probably be asked to provide another form of ID.

How do I register to vote if I’m at university?

Students can vote using their university or home address. It is legal to be registered in two areas, but a criminal offence to vote in both. If students are already registered at their home address, they could use a postal vote or proxy vote if they are not there on election day.

People who are working away from home or on holiday on election day can also vote by post or proxy, which means nominating someone to cast a vote for you. Your proxy must be aged 18 or over and also registered. If you are suddenly incapacitated or taken ill on polling day, you can apply for an emergency proxy up until 17:00 on the day.

How do I register to vote if I live abroad?

You can register as an overseas voter if you are a British citizen and have been on a UK electoral register in the past 15 years. You should register in the area where you wish to vote. In England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online to vote by post or by proxy. In Northern Ireland, you register by post and can only vote by proxy.

What about the armed forces?

Members of the armed forces overseas, or their spouse or civil partner, can register as a service voter or ordinary voter to vote by post or proxy. A service voter means you are registered at a fixed address in the UK for five years.

What if I am moving house?

When you move you need to re-register to your new address. If you are moving between the registration deadline and polling day you can vote at your old address. If you are unable to return, you can apply to vote by post and have your postal vote sent to your new address. Or you can vote by proxy.

Do I have to register to vote?

Local authorities carry out an annual canvass of households and will send an “invitation to register” letter to anyone identified as being a new resident not on the electoral register. Failure to respond to this could result in an £80 civil penalty if you do not have a valid reason. However, it is not compulsory to vote.

Woman placing vote in ballot box at election


Voter registrationSource: House of Commons Library/ONS

Is anyone banned from voting?

In general elections, it’s all of the following:

  • members of the House of Lords
  • convicted prisoners
  • anybody found guilty of electoral fraud within the past five years
  • people with any “legal incapacity” which impairs their judgement

Can someone else register me?

Not since 2014. Before then, one member of a household could sign up everyone.

Can I register to vote if I do not have a fixed address?

If you do not have a permanent address, you can register by filling in a “declaration of local connection” form.

Can I register to vote anonymously?

If you are concerned about your name and address appearing on the electoral register you need to fill in a form and explain why your safety – or that of someone in your household – would be at risk.

Can I get help with registering if I have a learning disability?

The Electoral Commission has produced an “easy-read” version of the registration form in English and Welsh. People with a disability can get help completing an application, but the person who wants to register to vote has to make the declaration.

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