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Guide to voting

Read our guidance and answers to frequently asked questions on the voting process

How do I vote?

If your name is on the electoral register and you are 18 or over, then you should receive a poll card before the election. The poll card will give you information about the date of the election, the hours of poll and the name of your polling station. Your poll card is for information only so don't worry if you lose it or forget it, you can still vote without it.

When you get to your polling station, the clerk will confirm your name and address and check that your name is on the register. They will then check your photo ID and give you a ballot paper.

The ballot paper will say how many candidates you can vote for. Take the ballot paper into a polling booth and put a cross [X] in the box next to the name of the candidate(s) you want to vote for.

Do not write anything else on your ballot paper or your vote won't be counted. Once you have voted you must fold the ballot paper to hide your vote and then put it in the ballot box. If there is more than one election happening on the same day (such as a parish and district election) then you may have more than one ballot paper to complete. If this is the case, these ballot papers will go in separate boxes.

Voting by post

You can apply to vote by post if you cannot get to the polling station to vote or if you find it more convenient.

Your ballot papers will be posted to you approximately 10 days before an election, along with a statement asking you to provide your date of birth and signature for security.

Apply to vote by post

From 31 October 2023, you will need to provide your National Insurance number when applying for a postal vote in order to verify your identity. If you do not have a National Insurance number, or it cannot be matched, you will be contacted for further information.

You can now apply for a postal vote online: Apply online. You will need to upload a photo of your signature as part of the application process.

Alternatively, you can download and print a paper application form from the Electoral Commission website: Postal application form. Completed application forms can be returned by email, as a scan or clear photograph, or by post.

Electoral Services contact details and postal address

Electoral Services (Lewes District)

Electoral Services (Eastbourne)

If you are unable to apply online or download a postal vote application form, please contact us using the details above and we will arrange for an application form to be sent to you in the post.

Cancel your postal vote

You can cancel your postal vote up to 5pm, 11 working days before an election. If you wish to cancel or change an existing postal vote, please contact Electoral Services using the contact details above.

How to complete your postal vote

When you receive your postal vote, read the instructions carefully. Your postal vote includes the ballot paper and a postal voting statement. Complete both and return them straight away via Royal Mail.

Completed postal votes need to be returned to the Returning Officer by 10pm on election day. If you miss the post, you can hand your completed postal vote in to your polling station or to Council offices. 

Please note, if you must hand them in at a Polling Station or Council reception, you will need to complete a form. You will need to include your name, address and a reason why you are needing to hand them in. You cannot put your completed postal vote in the Council office letter box.

Please do not ask a campaigner of political party to deliver your postal vote for you.

Lost or spoilt votes

If you lose your postal vote or make a mistake, contact the council straight away and a replacement can be issued before 5pm on election day.

Help with voting

If you need help to vote, you can ask someone you know or you can get independent help by contacting Lewes District Council on 01273 471600 or Eastbourne Borough Council on 01323 410000.

 

Voting by proxy

Proxy voting is when you get someone you trust to vote on your behalf. You should not be asked or told to appoint someone as a proxy voter: it is your choice alone and you should only appoint someone you trust.

You can only appoint a proxy voter in limited circumstances where you are unable to vote.

Your proxy can vote for a maximum of 4 people. No more than 2 of those people can be domestic electors. Domestic electors are voters who are neither overseas voters nor service voters.

Your proxy must be a registered elector but does not need to live in Eastbourne or Lewes. However, please bear in mind that your proxy will need to attend your polling station on your behalf, unless your appointed proxy applies for a postal vote.

Who can apply for a proxy vote?

You can apply for a proxy vote if:

  • you are unable to go to the polling station for a particular election
  • you are away on holiday
  • you have a physical condition that means you cannot go to the polling station on election day
  • due to your job you cannot go to the polling station on election day
  • your attendance on an education course means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day
  • you are a British Citizen living overseas
  • you are a Crown Servant or a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces

For more information on proxy voting, please visit the Electoral Commission website: Voting by proxy.

Apply to vote by proxy

From 31 October 2023, you can apply online if you want to vote by proxy for a particular election or referendum or for a definite period for overseas and service electors. You will need to provide your National Insurance number as part of your application. For all other types of proxy application, you will need to complete a paper application form. Make sure you complete all sections of the form and supply your date of birth, National Insurance number, and signature.

To apply online: Apply online. You will need to upload a photo of your signature as part of the application process.

Alternatively, you can download and print a paper application form from the Electoral Commission website: Proxy application form. Completed application forms can be returned by email, as a scan or clear photograph, or by post.

Electoral Services contact details and postal address

Electoral Services (Lewes District)

Electoral Services (Eastbourne)

If you are unable to apply online or download a proxy vote application form, please contact us using the details above and we will arrange for an application form to be sent to you in the post.

How can a proxy vote on your behalf?

A proxy can:

  • vote in person by going to your polling station
  • vote by post. The proxy will need to contact the Electoral Services team for a postal proxy application form. The form must be submitted by no later than 5pm on the 11th working day before the date of the election.

Can you still vote if you have appointed a proxy?

Yes, you can still vote in person at your polling station, as long as your proxy hasn't already voted for you or applied to vote for you by post.

If your proxy is going to the polling station on your behalf, they will need to make sure they have relevant photographic ID.

If you decide to go to the polling station instead of your proxy, you must have relevant photographic ID.

Emergency Proxy Voting

It is now possible to apply for what is called an emergency proxy after the deadline for proxy applications has already passed. This can be for either of the following reasons:

Medical

If you suffer a medical emergency after the deadline for standard proxy applications, which means you are unable to get to your polling station, then you can apply to appoint an emergency proxy by completing an Emergency Proxy Application Form. You will need a supporting signature from a medical practitioner, social worker or similar to confirm your circumstances. The list of people who can support your application can be found on the form. Your completed form must be with us by 5pm on polling day.

Employment

If, after the deadline for standard proxy applications, you become unable to attend the polling station in person for reasons relating to your occupation, service or employment then you can appoint a proxy by completing an Emergency Proxy Application Form. If you are self-employed you will need a supporting signature from a person 18 or over who knows you, this person cannot be your spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild. If you are employed you will need a supporting signature from your employer or an authorised person at your workplace. If you are a member of HM Forces, a Crown Servant or British Council Employee, or a spouse or civil partner, and registered as a service voter you do not need to support your application.

 

I'm going to be away on polling day, can I still vote?

Yes - you will need to apply for a proxy or postal vote. You must do this as soon as possible as we cannot accept postal vote applications received after 5pm 11 working days before the election or proxy vote applications received after 5pm 6 working days before polling day.

Important: Please note that we strongly advise that you appoint a proxy rather than electing to vote by post - statutory electoral timetables dictate when we can begin sending postal votes, so depending on when you leave for your holiday and the postal service we cannot make any guarantee that your postal vote will arrive in time for your departure.

I live overseas, can I register?

British Citizens living abroad

Registering to vote

If you live overseas, you can register to vote in UK Parliamentary elections if you are both:

  • A British citizen. This includes eligible Irish citizens (someone who was born in Northern Ireland, who is an Irish citizen and also qualifies as a British citizen) and citizens of Crown Dependencies
  • And, have previously been registered to vote in the UK or have lived in the UK 

To register to vote at a UK Parliament election, you need to complete an application. You can apply: 

When applying, you need to provide the last UK address you lived at or were registered to vote at. You also need to provide your National Insurance number and date of birth. These are used to verify your identity.

Alongside your application to register, you need to submit an overseas declaration. This must include: 

  • Your full name and current address for correspondence
  • A statement declaring you are a British Citizen  
  • A statement explaining if you are registering to vote based on if you were previously registered to vote in the UK or that you previously lived in the UK  
  • Your British passport details, even if your passport is expired
  • If you do not have a passport, you need to include a statement to explain your citizenship status and the date and place you were born
  • A statement that you believe the information stated in the declaration to be true
  • The date of the declaration 

You may be asked to provide evidence to prove your eligibility. If you need to provide evidence, you can do so during the online application process. You can also send evidence by email, post or by hand. If your last UK address was in the Eastbourne or Lewes area.

You can apply to vote by post or by proxy. You can also vote in person if you will be in the UK on polling day. You cannot vote in person at a British embassy, high commission or consulate.

To apply to vote by post or proxy, you need to complete a separate application alongside applying to vote as an overseas voter.

Important: Please note that we strongly advise that you appoint a proxy rather than electing to vote by post - as, depending on the postal service to and from your country of residence, there may not be time for you to complete and return your ballot papers.

If you were too young to have registered to vote in the UK before you left, you will also need to include your parent's or guardian's details and a copy of your birth certificate.

Can anyone vote?

No - to vote in elections and referendums you have to be 18 or over. You must also be:

  • A British citizen; or
  • A citizen of another Commonwealth country; or
  • A citizen of a British Overseas Territory; or
  • A citizen of the Republic of Ireland; or
  • For certain elections (excluding UK Parliamentary Elections), a citizen of another European Union country

Your name must be on the register of electors, otherwise, even if you meet the above criteria, you will not be able to vote.

Special Category Electors

If you are in one of the following categories then you can be on the electoral register by applying online.

  • HM Forces service voters (and their spouses or civil partners)
  • Crown servants and British Council employees (and their spouses or civil partners)
  • Patients in mental hospitals whose stay at the hospital is sufficient for them to be regarded as resident there
  • Remand prisoners whose stay at a penal institution is sufficient for them to be regarded as resident there

People living in the UK who have no permanent or fixed address who can register by means of a 'declaration of local connection' - please note, this category cannot register online, to register please request a paper form from our offices.

Does it matter if I lose my poll card?

No - you can still vote without it. Your poll card is for information only. It does make it easier if you take it to the polling station and show it to the clerk, but they will still be able to confirm you are on the register and issue your ballot paper to you without it.

Who are the people who ask for my poll number outside the polling station?

These people are called tellers and are used by political parties to help with their election campaigns. They have no standing in electoral law and are not connected with the official election process. You don't have to give them your poll number if you don't want to.

Are there any special arrangements for voters with disabilities?

Yes - each polling station will have one booth that is wider and has a lower writing shelf designed for voters using a wheelchair. If a polling station has alternative access for wheelchair users this will be signposted.

For voters with sight difficulties there is a large version of the ballot paper available to read, although the ballot paper issued will be the same for everyone. A tactile device with both raised and Braille numbers which can be attached to the ballot paper is also available at each polling station.

If you would like to know whether disabled car parking and toilet facilities are available at your polling station, and what if any, accessibility issues you might encounter please contact us.

The Presiding Officer or a voter's companion can assist a voter with disabilities. Anyone who helps a voter in this way must be an eligible elector and will be required to complete a declaration at the polling station. Alternatively, you can apply for a postal vote or appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.

What happens if I make a mistake on my ballot paper?

If you make a mistake on your ballot paper show it to the clerk at the polling station and ask for another one - do not put the spoilt paper in the ballot box. The clerk will issue you with a new paper and put your spoilt paper in a sealed envelope.

What happens after the voting has finished?

Immediately after voting has finished, the ballot box is sealed by the staff to ensure that nothing can be added to or taken from the box.

The box is taken to the count centre where the contents are counted with the ballot papers from other polling stations and the postal votes.

The candidate who receives the most votes is declared the winner and is elected to the position contested. Where more than one vacancy is being contested, there will be more than one winner - for example in a two-member ward the candidates with the most and the second most votes will be elected.