Election 2019: what you need to know about polling day

11 December 2019

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Before you vote

Polling day for the 2019 General Election is Thursday 12th December. If you’ve registered to vote, you can go to your local polling station and cast your vote. This is the only day you can go and vote in person. Anything telling you this date has been moved, or you have to vote on a specific day for a specific candidate is misinformation. 

You can check if you’re already registered to vote by contacting your local Electoral Registration Office.

You should have received a polling card through your door, but if you haven’t received one it’s fine as long as you are registered to vote. If you don’t have a polling card and don’t know where to vote you can check where your local polling station is here. You can only vote at your assigned polling station.

You can also check who your local candidates are here.

On polling day

Anyone attempting to forcibly influence your vote on polling day is committing electoral fraud and should be reported to the police. It is also not allowed by the Electoral Commission for “campaigning” to take place directly around or in polling stations. 

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm. If you are in a queue to get in or you’re inside the polling station at 10pm, you will be allowed to vote.

If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales, you don’t need a polling card or ID to vote. Simply turn up and give your name and you’ll be given a ballot if you’re registered in the area. If you’re in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to have a photo ID to vote.

If you arrive at a polling station and find your name is not on the register, despite registering to vote, you will most likely be directed to contact your local Electoral Registration Office. If it’s simply a case of you going to the wrong polling station, your correct one should not be far away.

There will be instructions on the ballot on how to mark your vote. Failing to clearly indicate your preferred candidate might lead to your vote being discounted. You are also allowed to spoil your ballot as a “protest vote”- it will still be counted as a “vote” but not assigned to a candidate.

You do not need to bring a pen to vote withit’s perfectly safe to vote with the pencil provided. In recent years there has been panic around votes being rubbed out or changed. A representative for the Electoral Commission said: "The use of pencils does not in itself increase the likelihood of electoral fraud: while pencil marks can be rubbed out, similarly, pen marks can be crossed out.”

If you have registered to vote in two places, you must only vote in one.

If you have registered for a postal vote, live in England, Scotland or Wales, and have not posted it by election day, you can take it to your polling station. If you live in Northern Ireland, postal votes that haven’t been posted must only be given to the Electoral Office in Belfast, not a polling station.

If you have a disability or impairment, you can speak to staff at the polling station to receive assistance. The Electoral Commission has a guide on accessibility measures polling places should take. People with a disability are also entitled to bring someone to help them vote. 

If you are ill or have an emergency on the day of the vote, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on polling day. 

You cannot vote online. Anywhere trying to tell you you can is spreading misinformation. 

It is not illegal to take a photo of yourself voting, but it is strongly advised you do not take photos inside polling stations in case you accidentally reveal how someone else voted, as this is illegal. 

There might be people outside your polling station representing your local candidates’ political parties. These are “tellers”. They are volunteers and are there to collect voters’ polling numbers to feedback to their party who has voted and who hasn't. They’re allowed to be there, but you do not have to interact or speak to a teller if you do not want to. 

After you've voted

It is not illegal to talk about how you voted, or if you did or didn’t vote. 

At 10pm when polls close, the BBC, Sky and ITV will simultaneously announce what is called the Exit Poll. This is based on interviews outside of polling stations, which aren’t always reflective of the final outcome. This is not the official result. Results from constituencies are usually announced throughout the night, and the final outcome isn’t known until the next day or after.

Correction 12 December 2019

We previously said it was an offence to campaign in a prescribed area near a polling station. This isn't actually set out in the law, but the Electoral Commission guidance says you're not allowed to campaign in or around polling stations. 

Correction 11 February 2020

We corrected this article to clarify the role of tellers on polling day.

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