Postal and proxy voting
If you can't go to your polling station on polling day, you can vote by post or by proxy.
Anyone can vote by post:
- temporarily, for a single election
- for a specific period of time, for all elections within those dates
- permanently, for all future elections
You don't need to give a reason for choosing to vote by post.
Postal votes are sent around ten days before polling day, we can't send them earlier because we have to wait until the deadline to stand as a candidate has passed and wait for the ballot papers to be printed. Your postal vote must be returned to us by 10pm on polling day. If you're going to be away from your registered address around this time, you can either have your postal vote sent to a different address or vote by proxy.
If you're about to apply for a postal vote, you can tell us where to send your postal vote pack in your application form.
If you already have a postal vote, you can change the address temporarily for one election. To arrange this, you must contact Electoral Services in writing, by post or by email. Please include your name, registered address, the address you would like your postal vote to be sent to and a brief reason for the change.
If you already have a postal vote and would like it to be sent to another address permanently for all future elections, you must reapply.
We can send postal votes abroad, but we advise against this because it can take too long for the postal ballot pack to reach you and be returned to us in time. We also advise against having your postal vote sent to another address if you're not going to be there for very long, as you may leave before the pack arrives. You may wish to apply for a proxy vote instead.
If you move and re-register to vote, you must reapply for your postal vote. This is because your postal vote is attached to your address and does not automatically move with you.
Proxy voting is where you select someone you trust, a friend or relative perhaps, to go to your polling station and vote on your behalf.
There are different versions of the application form, depending on the reason you want a proxy vote. Please contact Electoral Services if you are unsure which form you should use.
Anyone can have a temporary proxy vote for a single election. You need to provide a reason, but you don't need anyone else to support or sign your application.
You can only have a permanent proxy vote if you:
- have a disability and can't attend a polling station to cast your vote in person on polling day
- are away from home for education reasons
- are away from home for employment reasons
- live overseas
- are away from home because you are a Crown Servant or a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
If you want a permanent proxy vote because of a disability, for education reasons or for employment reasons, you must have someone support your application. This could be, for example, a health or social care professional, a tutor or an employer.
Being someone's proxy
If you have been appointed as someone's proxy, this means you can cast their vote on their behalf.
You can't be a proxy for more than two people at any one election or referendum, unless they are a close relative. Close relatives are defined as your spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild.
You must be aged over 18 and registered to vote in the election yourself.
Close to polling day, you will receive a proxy polling card telling you where to go to cast their vote. If you're unable to attend this polling station yourself, you may cast their vote by post.
If you have had a postal vote for over five years
When we send out postal ballot papers during an election, we will also include something called a postal vote statement in the pack. To protect against fraud, we check the signature and date of birth on the statement against the signature you provided when you applied for a postal vote. If the signatures don't match, your postal vote is rejected and isn't counted.
The law states that we must ask you to provide a new signature every five years. This 'postal vote refresh' helps avoid your postal vote being rejected, in case your signature has changed over the years.
Towards the beginning of the year, we write to all electors coming up to their fifth year with a form to sign. The form also asks you for your date of birth, just to check the information we have about you is correct. If you don't respond to your postal vote refresh form or reminder form, your postal vote will be cancelled and your voting method will automatically be set to voting in person.