On December 12, a month from now, the next UK general election is being held.
December is a busy month, especially for students who might find themselves caught in an onslaught of exams and deadlines or spending the day travelling back home for the holiday.
With that in mind, it’s especially important to be organised well in advance to give yourself the best chance of having your vote counted. Here’s everything you need to know about your voting options.
Can I vote?
Probably! You can vote if you are
- 18 or older on polling day (December 12)
- a British, Irish, or qualifying Commonwealth citizen
- live at a UK address, or are a British citizen who has been registered at one in the last 15 years
Even if you meet all the previous criteria you have to be registered to vote or you won’t be able to!
So how do I register to vote?
You can do it online right now! Just follow this link. It only takes five minutes and all you need is your National Insurance Number.
Technically, you have until midnight on November 26 to do it but let’s be real, if you don’t do it now you’re going to forget. Come on, you’re already online.
I don’t know if I’m registered!
If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, or you know you are but can’t remember where, then you can contact your local electoral registration office to find out. For Stirling you can reach them by email at email@example.com or by phone at 01786 892289.
If you live elsewhere, or are a student looking to check if you’re registered at home, you can find the details of your local office by putting in your postcode here.
If you’ve registered before for any election, including local or devolved governments, and none of your details have changed then you don’t need to register again! You’re all set.
I saw an article about a student planning to vote twice, can I do that?
No. This is very illegal and could result in you being fined hundreds of pounds by the Electoral Commission.
Students can register to vote in both their term time constituency and a home constituency if they live elsewhere during the holidays.
However, even though they are different constituencies with different people standing in them, they are all counted as being part of the same election so you can only vote in one place.
Did you register to vote back at question two?
In the time it took you to get to the end of this sentence, you could have been most of the way through registering. Just saying.
So what are my voting options anyway?
There are three ways that you can vote: in person, by post or by proxy.
In person: Going to a designated local polling station, writing an X on a piece of paper then putting it into a box. This is the default way of voting if you don’t apply for something else.
A polling card telling you where your polling station is will be sent to your house before the election. You don’t need to take it with you to vote though, nor do you need ID (unless you’re in Northern Ireland). Just turn up, give your name and address, and go wild.
By post: You’ll be sent a ballot paper in the post which you can then fill out and send back to your local electoral registration office. You don’t need a special reason for a postal vote, so it can be a good option if you might have trouble getting to a polling station, or if you’re not sure where you’ll be on election day, but are definitely going to be at your registered address in the weeks before polling.
A postal vote needs to be applied for in addition to registering to vote. You can do this by printing out this form in Scotland, England or Wales, or this form in Northern Ireland, and then sending it in to your local electoral registration office. Your form has to be with the office by 5pm on November 26 (November 21 in NI) or you won’t be able to vote by post.
When your ballot paper will be sent out to you depends on where you live. For Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire postal ballots will be sent out on December 3. Elsewhere, you can find out when ballots will be sent by contacting your local office.
By proxy: Proxy voting is giving someone else your vote which they can cast on your behalf. This is only allowed under specific circumstances that prevent you from voting in person, such as being away from home, a medical issue or disability or military service.
Each of these reasons has a different form (NI) that you need to print out and send back to your electoral registration office to apply. Like the postal vote, these forms have a deadline in advance of polling day: 5pm on December 4 for Scotland, England and Wales and 5pm on November 21 for Northern Ireland.
Anybody can be a proxy as long as you are registered to vote yourself and can physically get to the polling station of the person you’re proxying for to cast the vote. If you’re feeling like engaging in expert level voting it is possible to cast a proxy vote by post by arrangement with your electoral registration office, however this should only be attempted by experienced voters under professional supervision.
Whew! That was a lot of really boring words.
It was. To celebrate reaching the end here’s a fun video video by the Stirling Students Union you can watch (after you register to vote, of course). And with a bit of luck, I’ll never have to write the words “electoral registration office” again.
Featured image credit: GovernmentCIOMedia