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Registering to vote

In order to vote in UK elections and referendums, you need to apply to have your name included on the electoral register. This is known as registering to vote. Find out who can register, which elections you can vote in and how to register to vote.

Who can register to vote

Make sure you register to vote

You aren't automatically registered to vote, even if you pay Council Tax

You can register to vote if you are 16 years old or over, and a British, Irish, Commonwealth or European Union citizen. If you are 16 or 17, you can register now but you are not allowed to vote until you are 18.

If you can register to vote and want to know which elections (general or local) you can vote in, follow the links below.

The electoral register - what it is

The electoral register is a list of the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote. You aren’t automatically registered to vote, even if you pay Council Tax. Electoral registration is a separate process from Council Tax registration.

Registering to vote now

If you want to register to vote, visit the About My Vote website and follow the link ‘Register to vote’ to download a registration form.

Voting on 5 May 2011

To vote in May's elections and referendum you need to register by 14 April

Once you have filled the form in, you should send it to your local electoral registration office.

If you live in England, find out details of your local electoral registration office by following the link below. If you aren’t sure whether you are registered to vote, ask someone at the local electoral registration office to tell you.

Electoral registration – organised by your local council

Your local council sends an electoral registration form to your home between August and November each year. Most people register or renew their electoral registration as part of this process.

Returning the electoral registration form

You must return the electoral registration form, even if there is no change or no one is eligible to vote at your address. The form should list all the people who will be living at your address on 15 October and who are eligible to vote.

Some local councils will allow you to renew your registration online or by phone if your details haven't changed. Look on your registration form to find out if your council provides this service.

New electoral register

A new electoral register is published on 1 December each year, including all the changes made during the registration process.

If an election is called during the registration process

If an election is called during this annual registration process the registration officer in the council will ensure that the register includes forms returned before the registration deadline. The aim is to ensure that the election is conducted on the most up-to-date register possible.

Monthly updates to the electoral register

From December to mid-August (when the council isn’t running the yearly electoral registration process), there are monthly updates to the electoral register. If you register during this time, your details will be included in the next monthly update.

Voting in elections

Once you are registered, you’ll be able to vote in the following elections, depending on where you are from and where you live:

  • UK Parliament
  • European Parliament
  • local council
  • Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, or Northern Ireland Assembly, if you live in these areas

Registering to vote if you are in the Armed Forces

People who serve in the Armed Forces and their husbands, wives or civil partners can register as a service voter. This means you are registered to vote at an address in the UK while you are away from home or serving abroad. You must renew your service declaration every three years.

If you are abroad and registered as a service voter you can vote by post or proxy.

If you serve in the Armed Forces and are living in the UK, you can either register as a service voter or apply to be included on the electoral register.

Electoral registration forms for service voters can be downloaded by visiting the About My Vote website and following the ‘Register to vote’ link.

Registering to vote from abroad

British citizens living abroad who have been registered to vote in the UK within the past 15 years can register as an overseas voter, which means:

  • you can vote in UK general elections and European Parliamentary elections
  • you can’t vote in UK local government elections or elections for the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Electoral register - who can use your details

There are two versions of the electoral register:

  • the 'full register' is only used for elections, preventing and detecting crime, and checking applications for loans or credit
  • the 'edited register' is available for general sale and can be used by commercial companies

Your name and address will appear on the full register. You can choose whether to appear on the edited register when you register to vote.

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Additional links

Elections and referendum

Voting takes place on 5 May in local and national elections and in the referendum

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