It's important not to lose your vote just because you don't know what to do.
Your ballot paper will have the names of each candidate along with their party logos and descriptions (if any) and a box on the right hand side where you put your cross for who you want to vote for.
At the top of the ballot paper, it will tell you which election it's for – for example, local or Parliamentary (General Election) and also it will give you instructions about the maximum number of candidates you may vote for. If you mark or vote for more than the number allowed, your ballot will not be counted. If you have the choice to mark for 3 candidates but only choose to vote for one then this will be counted as normal.
How to vote using your ballot paper
Find out how to vote at a polling station, by post or by proxy.
Practice ballot paper
The 'My Vote, My Voice' campaign has produced an easy read guide that includes a practice ballot paper.
Audio version of the ballot paper
We've recorded an audio version of the ballot paper for each area for you to listen to.
Making a mistake on your ballot paper
If you make a mistake on the ballot paper, as long as you have not put your ballot in the ballot box or returned it in your postal pack, you can fix this. If you’re at the polling station, just explain to a member of staff what you have done and they will issue you with a new ballot. If you’re voting by post, contact our Elections Team immediately as there is a time limit on the process.
Purposely spoiling your ballot paper
If you have purposely spoilt your ballot paper your vote won’t be counted. This is normally done if you write anything on the ballot aside from a clear voting intention in a box next to a candidate’s name.
If a voter’s intention on the ballot paper is unclear, it may be voided, so it’s important to mark it correctly. There will be instructions both on the ballot paper, in the postal pack and in the booth at the polling station.
Postal vote opening process
- Postal votes are delivered pre-sorted by Royal Mail to the council offices each day. They are then placed into a ballot box which is sealed until they are ready to be processed.
- When a postal vote is returned by the voter they include the ballot paper(s) for the election(s) they wish to vote in, and a postal vote statement (PVS) which includes their signature and date of birth.
- At each opening session, the Returning Officer (or the DRO) will decide whether or not the date of birth and signature provided by electors on their PVS match those held on their records (supplied as part of the postal vote application process). If there is a mis-match, the postal vote will be rejected. This matching is done automatically using scanners with manual adjudication where there is no match or information is missing.
- A very small number of voters do not need to sign their postal voting statement. These voters will have been granted a waiver because they are unable to sign or provide a consistent signature due to a disability or an inability to read or write. The postal voting statement sent to such electors will make this clear.
- A postal voting agent appointed by a candidate has a right to observe, but not to interfere with this process. A postal voting agent can, however, object to the decision of a Returning Officer to reject a postal vote. It will not affect the Returning Officer’s decision, but the Returning Officer will record any objections by marking the postal voting statement with the words ‘rejection objected to’.
- Ballot papers will be kept face down throughout a postal vote opening session. Anyone attending an opening session must not attempt to see how individual ballot papers have been marked. It follows therefore that it will not be possible for them to keep a tally of how ballot papers have been marked. This is also not allowed. In addition, anyone attending a postal vote opening must not attempt to look at identifying marks or numbers on ballot papers, disclose how any particular ballot paper has been marked or pass on any such information gained from the session. Anyone found guilty of breaching these requirements can face an unlimited fine or may be imprisoned for up to 6 months.
- Once ballot papers have been determined to be valid they are sorted into the various elections (where applicable), the number of ballot papers recorded and placed into ballot boxes and sealed at the end of each day to ensure that nobody can access them. These ballot papers will then be included with those from polling stations when votes are counted.
After voting has closed, the counting process begins which is sometimes the day after. The process is overseen by a returning officer and by the candidates and party officials. If a count is close and a recount is requested, the returning officer will take the final decision on this. A tie between candidates often results in a recount.
There are occasions where there is an equal number of votes for candidates representing different parties. Where there’s been a number of re-counts and the numbers are still the same - a decision can be made by drawing straws by the candidates or by lots where one ballot paper for each of the candidates is folded so that the name cannot be seen, placed into a box and the returning officer picks out one paper.