Election 2015

Election 2015: How to register to vote

Woman posting her paper into ballot box at polling station

The deadline to register to vote in the UK's general election is at midnight on 20 April. Here's how to register.

Who can register to vote?

You can register to vote if you are 16 or over, but you cannot vote on polling day in general elections until you are 18 years old. To vote, you have to be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

Who is banned from voting?

The following are barred from voting in general elections: members of the House of Lords; EU citizens resident in the UK; anyone other than British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens; convicted prisoners; anybody found guilty of electoral fraud within the last five years; people who are subject to any "legal incapacity" which impairs their judgement.

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Am I already registered to vote?

You can check whether you are on the electoral roll by contacting the electoral services department at your local council. Their contact details are listed on the Electoral Commission's special website.

If you are unsure whether you are already registered or want to update your details, contact your local electoral registration officer to find out.

How do I register to vote?

If you live in England, Scotland and Wales, you can register online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote through the government's gov.uk portal.

The online service is also available in Welsh.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you will need to register using a different form.

What do I need to register?

You will need your National Insurance number, your date of birth and your address. The process takes about five minutes.

What happens if I can't find my National Insurance number?

If you can't find your National Insurance card (which were axed in 2011), or the letter that replaced them, your National Insurance number should appear on payslips or on official letters about benefits or tax credits.

Students may be able to get their number from a student loan application.

If you do not have your National Insurance number, you can still apply to register to vote, but you must be able to explain why you cannot provide it. You will probably be asked to provide some other form of ID.

Can I ask my husband, wife, son or flatmate to register me?

Not any more. Until recently, one member of a household could sign up everyone else living there. But this was scrapped last summer as part of a drive to individual electoral registration (IER).

The move was designed to reduce the risk of electoral fraud, but critics have warned that it hasn't been adequately publicised and, as a result, up to a million people have fallen off the register.

The Electoral Commission has launched a public awareness campaign and says there have been 1,393,360 online applications to register since 16 March. Of those, 521,889 applications have from 16-24 year olds.

Can I register to vote by post?

Yes. You can register to vote by post online. You can also request a postal vote from the electoral services department at your local council - which you should also contact if your polling card fails to arrive.

If you are in England, Scotland or Wales and want to vote by post, you must submit a postal vote application form to your local authority by 17:00 BST on Tuesday 21 April.

Arrangements for postal voting in Northern Ireland are slightly different. Completed application forms must be returned by 17:00 BST on Thursday 16 April.

After completing the form, you'll need to print it, sign it and send it back to your local electoral registration office.

If you apply for a postal vote and then decide you would like to vote in person after all, you must take the whole of your postal voting package to the polling station on election day in order to vote.

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Can I register to vote by proxy?

To vote by proxy - which means nominating someone to cast a vote for you - you must have a reason such as being on holiday or away due to work. Your proxy must be aged 18 or over and registered individually. Furthermore, they cannot act as a proxy for more than two people, unless they are a close relative.

If you are in England, Scotland or Wales, you must submit a proxy vote application form to your local authority by 17:00 BST on Tuesday 28 April. There are different forms depending on your personal circumstances.

Northern Ireland has its own arrangements for proxy voting. The deadline to apply is 17:00 BST on 16 April.

If you are suddenly incapacitated or taken ill on polling day, you can apply for an emergency proxy up until 17:00 BST on the day.

If I live abroad, can I register to vote?

Yes. You can register as an overseas voter if you are a British citizen and have been on a UK electoral register at any time within the past 15 years. To do so, you must be registered in the local authority area where you wish to vote.

What if I am registered at two addresses?

It is a criminal offence to vote twice in a UK general election. Even if you are registered in two areas, for example at at home and at university, you can only vote in one place at a general election.

What if I am moving house?

If you are moving between the registration deadline and polling day on 7 May you can vote at your old address. If you are unable to return to your old area to vote, you can apply to vote by post and arrange for your postal vote to be sent to your new address. Alternatively you can appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.

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What about if I am in the armed forces?

If you're a member of the armed forces, or the spouse or civil partner of someone in the armed forces, you can register to vote as a service voter or as an ordinary voter.

If you're based overseas or expect to be posted abroad it makes sense to register as a service voter. This allows you to be registered at a fixed address in the UK even if you move around.

Service voter registration also lasts for five years.

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Can I get help if I have a learning disability?

Yes. The Electoral Commission has produced what it calls an easy-read version of the registration form. People with a disability can get help completing an application, but the person who wants to register to vote has to make the declaration.

In England and Wales, a person with the relevant power of attorney can also make this declaration.

What happens if I don't register?

You won't be able to vote on 7 May.

Is it compulsory to vote?

No, people cannot be forced to vote.

When will the vote happen?

The election takes place on 7 May, between 07:00 and 22:00 BST.

What are we voting for?

The general election will decide which party (or coalition of parties) forms the next UK government. There are 650 seats in the UK Parliament's House of Commons up for grabs.

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