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BBC Election 2005

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Guide to voting


This guide explains how you can vote in a general election, choosing which MPs members of parliament will sit in the House of Commons.

There are many other elections in the UK, including those for parish, district and county councils, unitary authorities, mayors, the European Parliament and devolved bodies, such as the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies.

In some of these, the voting procedure may be slightly different.

Voting in UK elections is not compulsory, but is a democratic right.

First you need to register with your local election office. If you cannot or do not want to vote in person at a polling station, you must apply to vote by post or to appoint someone to cast your ballot on your behalf.

To vote in a general election you have to be:

  • Aged 18 or over on election day
  • On the electoral register
  • A citizen of the UK, resident in a constituency or living abroad for less than 15 years
  • A Commonwealth or Irish citizen living in a UK constituency
  • Not in a category barred from voting, which includes members of the House of Lords, convicted prisoners in custody and psychiatric patients detained under some sections of the Mental Health Act.
  • A town hall
    In some councils, only a portion of seats may be contested each year

    MPs in the House of Commons
    In the House of Commons one MP represents each constituency

    MEPs in the European Parliament
    In European elections voters select a list of candidates, not individuals