In Depth

How to register to vote before the deadline today

More than a million people applied last week to vote in the general election

As political parties are busy campaigning for the general election, people are rushing to register to vote in time for the 12 December poll.

The number of applications on the government’s online registration portal began soaring in September when Boris Johnson announced that he would be tabling a motion for a new election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

More than a million people applied to register to vote in the last week alone, but there are still millions unregistered.

So how do you register to vote?

To cast a vote – either in person or by post – you must be on the electoral register, which is also known as the electoral roll. If you aren’t already registered at your current address, you can register online at gov.uk/register-to-vote. You’ll need to give the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • National Insurance number
  • Passport number – if you are a UK citizen living abroad

You can also register to vote using a paper form. To do so, you need to contact your local Electoral Registration Office and ask them to post a form to you. You’ll then need to return the completed form to the Electoral Registration Office.

There are different forms for postal registration from the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI).

How do I check if I am already on the electoral roll?

If you were registered to vote in the 2019 European Parliament elections and have not moved house since, you don’t need to re-register. If you’re not sure whether you registered, you need to contact your local Election Registration Office or EONI to check. 

How do I get a postal vote?

If you are not able to attend a polling station on election day for whatever reason, you can register to vote by post. However, the deadline for applying is 5pm today and it requires downloading a postal vote request form and returning it by post.

If you have already registered, your postal vote must then arrive at your local Electoral Office by 10pm on 12 December.

What is the difference between a postal vote and a proxy vote?

Like a postal vote, a proxy vote also allows you to cast a vote without attending the polling station. The difference is that a proxy vote means you get somebody else to attend and vote on your behalf.

You can only apply under certain circumstances, such as being away on election day, having a medical issue or being unable to vote in person because of work or military service.

When you apply for a proxy vote, you specify the person who will vote for you – and they must then attend the polling station in person. The Electoral Commission provides more information about how to apply.

When are the deadlines?

Regular voters across the UK must register to vote by 11.59pm today

For England, Scotland and Wales, applications for a postal vote close at 5pm today and the last proxy vote applications must be in by 5pm on 4 December.

What if I live in Northern Ireland?

Unlike in other UK nations, citizens of Northern Ireland need to give an explanation for requesting a postal vote. The EONI states that the only acceptable reasons are disability, employment or education. The main deadline for applying to vote by post or proxy in NI has passed, unless you need to apply on the grounds of unforeseen circumstances related to health. In this case, you have until 5pm on 4 December to get your application in.

What if I miss all deadlines but still want to vote?

It is possible in certain circumstances to apply for a proxy vote at the very last minute – if you have an accident and are in hospital, for example, or if you have a work emergency. The deadline for securing an emergency proxy vote is usually 5pm on the day of the election. More information is available here.

What is tactical voting?

Tactical voting is casting your ballot in favour of the candidate most likely to prevent the outcome you do not want. For instance, a Liberal Democrat voter who wants to prevent a Conservative victory in their constituency might vote for a Labour candidate that is more likely to unseat the Tory.

With Brexit looming large and a general atmosphere of political volatility, Chris Curtis from YouGov, told Business Insider that he believes that “tactical voting could be more effective” than in previous elections.

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Campaigners have been launching websites and apps to help those seeking to vote tactically in the December election to get their desired outcome.

The Times reports that Leave.eu has promised to launch an app that will advise Leavers which pro-Brexit candidate to vote for in their constituency to avoid splitting the vote and assisting a Labour victory.

On the other side, RemainUnited.org was set up by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller to recommend how Remainers should vote.

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