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Your guide to polling day at the general election 2024

With less than 24 hours to go until polls open, political parties and voters are preparing for what may be the last few hours of Conservative rule in the UK for some time.

Polls suggest Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is set for a significant victory in Thursday’s general election, and it is forecast to win more seats than it did in 1997.

Labour‘s largest majority is 178 and dates back to 1997, the general election that saw Sir Tony Blair become prime minister.

Voters are being reminded of the requirement to show photographic identification, such as a passport or driving licence, when voting in person at a polling station.

This year is the first time in the UK that everybody opting to vote in person at a general election will have to show a correct form of ID before casting a ballot.

When do polling stations open?

Polling stations will open at 7am in the morning and close at 10pm in the evening on Thursday 4 July in order to accommodate as many voters as possible.

You must vote at your assigned polling station, as dictated on your polling card. You do not need to bring your polling card to vote.

While it’s not necessary to bring your polling card to vote, do remember to carry your photo ID.

And if you’re racing to cast your vote before the polls close, the Electoral Commission (the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK) has confirmed that if you’re in line to vote when the polls officially close, you’re guaranteed entry and the right to vote.

Who is eligible to vote in the UK general election?

Anyone who is over the age of 18 on polling day and meets the following criteria is eligible to vote in the UK general election:

  • a British citizen
  • an Irish or EU citizen living in the UK
  • a Commonwealth citizen with permission to enter/stay in the UK
  • citizen of another country living in Scotland/Wales with permission to enter/stay in UK
  • British citizen registered as an overseas voter
Polling cards for the local elections in England on 4 May, 2023. The elections are for district councils, unitary authorities, and directly-elected mayors in England. The elections are the first under new voter identification laws which requires voters show photo ID when voting. These new laws were controversial due to accusations they could prevent some people voting. (Photo by: Andy Soloman/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Voters are sent their polling cards ahead of the polling day (Photo: Andy Soloman/UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty)

Do I need ID or my polling card to vote?

All people choosing to vote in person must bring an accepted form of photographic ID.

The photo ID you show must be the original version. You cannot use a photograph, image on a phone or a photocopy of your ID.

You’ll need one of the following types of photo ID to vote:

  • a UK or Northern Ireland photocard driving licence (full or provisional)
  • a driving licence issued by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands
  • a UK passport
  • a passport issued by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or a Commonwealth country
  • a PASS card (National Proof of Age Standards Scheme)
  • a Blue Badge
  • a biometric residence permit (BRP)
  • a Defence Identity Card (MOD form 90)
  • a national identity card issued by the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • a Northern Ireland Electoral Identity Card
  • a Voter Authority Certificate
  • an Anonymous Elector’s Document

You can also use one of the following travel passes as photo ID when you vote:

  • an older person’s bus pass
  • a disabled person’s bus pass
  • an Oyster 60+ card
  • a Freedom Pass
  • a Scottish National Entitlement Card (NEC)
  • a 60 and Over Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
  • a Disabled Person’s Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
  • a Northern Ireland concessionary travel pass

The photo on your ID must look like you. According to government guidance, you can still use your ID even if it has expired.

The name on your ID must match your name on the electoral register. If it does not, you’ll need to take a document with you to vote that proves you’ve changed your name (for example, a marriage certificate)

Government guidance states that small differences do not matter. For example, if your ID says ‘Jim Smith’ instead of ‘James Smith’.

Where is my polling station and how do I find it?

Everyone wishing to vote in person must do so at their assigned polling station. You cannot turn up at any polling station and cast your vote.

Polling stations are usually within a public building, such as a school or village hall.

If you’re not sure where your polling station is, you can find out by clicking on the Electoral Commission’s website.

It has an online tool that enables you to enter your postcode and see your nearest polling station and the full list of candidates standing.

What is tactical voting?

ERDINGTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: A vote for Labour is seen on a ballot paper duri the count on March 04, 2022 in Erdington, England. Voters in Birmingham's Erdington constituency have casted their ballots for a new MP in a by-election. The vote follows the death of Labour's Jack Dromey in January, aged 73. (Photo by Darren Staples/Getty Images)
Voters will need to complete a ballot paper by entering a X by their candidate of choice (Photo: Darren Staples/Getty)

Tactical voting is when a person votes for a political party or person that they would not normally support in order to prevent another person or party from winning.

Tactical voting exists because of the UK’s first past the post voting system. This means that each voter chooses a single candidate to be their MP, with the winner determined by a majority.

Some people argue that this system is unfair, as votes for other candidates effectively go to waste.

In some instances, the winning party is elected by less than 50 per cent of the votes, something that happened in 2019 when the Conservative Party secured just 43.6 per cent of votes.

Can I still send a postal vote?

The deadline to apply for a postal vote for the elections has now passed.

If you wish to post your ballot, Royal Mail says it should be sent no later than today to ensure it arrives before final collection.

Voters can send their postal vote for free via the Post Office or a postbox. No stamp is required.

The postal service have said extra staff will be on hand to collect last-minute ballots from sorting offices.

Despite thousands of voters claiming not to have received their postal voting pack with just hours to go. Royal Mail has insisted that it has “no backlog” of postal votes.

Delays have been blamed on Brexit, understaffed local government teams, problems with printers, and Royal Mail deliveries.

Voters who have not yet received their postal vote are being advised to take their completed postal vote to polling stations on election day to be counted. You may have to complete a short form.

Can someone vote in my place?

If you’re unable to vote in person you can ask someone to vote on your behalf. This is called a proxy vote.

You can only apply for a proxy vote under certain circumstances, including:

  • being away on polling day
  • being registered as an overseas voter
  • having a medical issue or disability
  • not being able to vote in person because of work or military service

Your proxy should be someone you trust to vote on your behalf. You’ll need to tell them which candidate (or referendum outcome) you want to vote for.

You can no longer apply for a proxy vote for the general election on 4 July.

You can ask anyone to act as your proxy – as long as they:

  • are registered to vote
  • are allowed to vote in the type of election taking place
  • can vote in the polling station stated on your poll card

They’ll need to take their own photo ID with them to vote, but not your ID.

Election 2024

The general election campaign is almost at an end as polling day looms on 4 July. Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer and other party leaders have battled to win votes over six weeks, and i‘s election live blog has covered it from the first moment.

Every party’s manifesto is out, with Tories, Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Reform UK sharing why they should get your vote. Read i‘s manifesto comparison on each of the main party’s pledges on issues such as NHS, education, defence, devolution, tax, spending, HS2 and housing.

You can read the polls, check which constituencies could be deciders, ensure you’re informed about who to vote for, and make sure you’re weather-ready before you head to your polling station on Thursday.

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