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Electoral services

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3. Postal votes

If you are unable or do not wish to vote at a polling station, you can apply to vote by post instead.

Forms can also be requested by contacting us online (select "Other Service"). 

Completed postal vote applications must be received by 5.00 pm 11 working days before an election. Remember that if you have got a postal vote you will not be able to vote at a polling station, even if you do not use your postal vote.

In the case of a postal vote, a ballot paper will be sent to an individual in advance of the election (usually 8 working days before polling day) and, upon the return of the completed ballot paper, the vote will be included with those cast at polling stations.

Postal votes can be sent abroad but you will need to be sure that there will be sufficient time to receive and return the postal pack.  If in doubt, you may wish to consider appointing a proxy to vote on your behalf.


How to complete your postal votes

Please download our quick guide to postal voting for details on how to make sure your postal vote is accepted and counted.


Handing in Postal Votes and Secrecy Provisions

As a result of the Elections Act 2022 - please note that, should you choose to hand in your postal vote rather than use Royal Mail, new laws will be in effect for polls taking place on 2 May 2024.

1. Limits on handing in postal votes at polling stations

  • No person may hand in more than five postal ballot packs for other electors (plus their own) into a polling station.
  • If a person hands in more than five postal ballot packs for other electors, then all the postal votes (other than their own) will be rejected.
  • If there is reason to suspect that a person has already handed in the maximum number of postal votes on any previous occasion at the election, any subsequent postal votes handed in will be rejected.


2. Completion of postal vote documents form

  • Anyone handing in postal votes will need to complete a ‘return of postal voting documents’ form.
  • The person handing in the postal vote(s) will need to complete the form with their name, address and the reason for handing in other people’s postal votes (where appropriate).
  • They will also need to complete a declaration that they are not handing in more than the permitted number, and that they are not a political campaigner.
  • If the form is not completed with all the required information, or to the authorised officer’s satisfaction, the postal vote(s) will be rejected.
  • Rejected postal votes will not be included in the count.
  • After the election, the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) will write to electors who have had their postal votes rejected, telling them why.


3. Postal votes which are ‘left behind’ at a polling station

  • Postal votes will not be accepted if they are simply left at a polling station.
  • If a person hands in postal votes without completing the return of postal vote documents form, the ‘left behind’ postal votes will be rejected.
  • After the election, the ERO will write to electors who have had their postal vote rejected because they were left behind.


4. Handing in postal votes to the Returning Officer

  • Voters sometimes hand postal votes in directly to the Civic Centre in advance of the election, and on polling day itself.
  • The same restrictions, limits, and requirement to complete a form which apply at polling stations, will also apply to postal votes handed in at council offices. 
  • Any postal votes handed in personally at the Civic Centre reception during opening hours will be accepted but a ‘return of postal voting documents’ form must be completed.
  • Any postal votes which are left at any council building without the ‘return of postal voting documents’ form being completed will be rejected.
  • Do not place any postal votes in the council mailbox as these will be rejected.


5. Secrecy requirements extended to postal and proxy votes 

  • The secrecy requirements regarding voting, which apply at a polling station, are being extended to postal and proxy votes.
  • It will be an offence to try to find out how someone has voted when completing their postal vote, or to communicate how a postal or proxy voter has voted.
  • Anyone found guilty of breaching the secrecy requirements could face a fine or imprisonment of up to six months.


6. Important additional rules for political campaigners;