Elections 2022: What can’t I do in a polling station?


Millions of people will head to the polls on Thursday to vote in elections across the UK.

Local elections are taking place in England, Scotland and Wales, while in Northern Ireland people are voting for members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. There’ll also be a number of mayoral seats up for grabs in England.

What are the dos and don’ts when casting your vote?

How do I find my polling station?

If you’ve got a vote you should have received a polling card in the post.

This has your polling number and the address for where you cast your vote – your polling station.

To vote, you have to turn up at the polling station between 07:00 and 22:00 BST on 5 May.

You don’t have to bring your polling card when you vote, but it can speed the process up.

If your card hasn’t turned up and you don’t know where your polling station is, contact your local authority’s election office. Remember, you must vote at your designated polling station. You can’t go to a different one of your choosing, for example near where you work.

Are there Covid-19 measures at this year’s polls?

Local authorities and the Electoral Office in Northern Ireland will be following the latest public health guidance in their area to make sure polling stations are safe places to vote on 5 May.

Those voting in person may see some public health measures in place at polling stations, similar to those in place in other indoor venues.

What if I can’t turn up on the day?

The deadline has now passed to apply for a postal vote, or a proxy vote. A proxy vote means someone else goes to the polling station on your behalf.

However, you can still apply for an emergency proxy vote if since the deadline one of the following has happened:

  • a medical emergency
  • you are away for work
  • you’re self-isolating because of Covid

You can make the application any time up to 17:00 BST on polling day itself by contacting your local council.

Can I have help if I am disabled?

The presiding officer can mark the paper for you, or a close adult family member or another eligible voter, such as a support worker, can accompany you.

People with a visual impairment can request a device that lets them mark their own ballot paper. A large-print version should also be available.

Polling stations are selected for accessibility. But if a voter cannot enter, the presiding officer may take the ballot paper to them.

Can I take a selfie?

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Image caption,

Voters can take photos outside polling stations but not inside

The Electoral Commission – which oversees UK elections – advises against this because it risks accidentally giving away how someone else (the person in the booth next to you, for example) voted, which is illegal.

But people are welcome to share photos taken outside a polling station “to encourage your friends and family to vote”.

Yes – but photographing the ballot paper is not allowed and the punishment for revealing how anyone else voted, even accidentally, is a fine of up to £5,000 – or six months in prison.

So voters are advised not to update their social media accounts inside the polling station.

Can I spoil my ballot paper?

Some people deliberately spoil their vote – for example, by writing a message on the ballot paper as a protest.

These are recorded but do not count for or against any candidate.

Are pets allowed?

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Animals, apart from assistance dogs, are not usually allowed in polling stations.

A wide variety of dogs, however, are usually spotted outside polling stations – often next to a camera-wielding human snapping a photo for their socials.

Can I wear political clothing?

The Electoral Commission says there is nothing in law to prevent people wearing a slogan going into a polling station, with the intention of voting.

But they should leave immediately afterwards, as campaigning inside polling stations is not permitted.

Can I vote if I’ve been drinking?

People who are drunk can vote, unless they are disruptive.

Can I discuss the candidates?

Political discussion is banned inside polling stations.

Staff will intervene if they hear any chat about candidates or parties.

Can a friend come to help me?

They can, if they are registered to vote at your polling station – but they cannot enter the booth where you vote.

And if they are not registered there, the staff may decide to refuse them entry.

Can my children come?

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Bringing children to the polling station is encouraged, because it is seen as educating them about democracy.

But a child is not allowed to mark your vote on the ballot paper.

Can I sign my ballot paper?

People occasionally sign their ballots – but if the name is identifiable, the vote will not count.

Is voting compulsory?

No – it is entirely up to you whether or not you vote.

Who counts the votes?

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Local councils recruit the presiding officer and staff to conduct the ballot, count the votes and process the postal votes.

When will I know who won the election?

The first councils will be counted overnight into early Friday morning. You can follow all the latest results on the BBC website after 22:00 BST on our results pages here:

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