Get set to vote in the general election in Northern Ireland

Media caption,
Don't get left outside on polling day - here's how to register to vote

A general election to elect MPs to the House of Commons at Westminster will be held on Thursday 12 December.

These are the key facts about being ready to vote in Northern Ireland.

Do I mark the ballot paper with an X or 1,2,3?

A UK general election operates on a first-past-the-post system.

Voters should mark the ballot paper with a single X next to their candidate of choice.

The Single Transferable Vote system is only used for assembly, local council and European elections in Northern Ireland.

Do I need to bring ID to the polling station?

Voters in Northern Ireland must bring photo ID to the polling station. The polling card received through the post is for information purposes only and is not acceptable ID for voting purposes.

The following ID documents are accepted:

  • A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part; provisional accepted)
  • A UK, Irish or EU passport
  • An Electoral Identity Card
  • A Translink Senior SmartPass
  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass
  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass
  • A Translink Blind Person's SmartPass

How do I apply for an electoral ID card?

The electoral ID card is produced by the Electoral Office and is one of the acceptable forms of ID.

You can apply in person at the Electoral Office, or by post up to two weeks before polling day.

Who can register to vote in a general election?

Anyone on the electoral register aged 18 or above on polling day has a vote. You have to be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

You need to register at least 12 working days before an election.

What is the deadline to register to vote?

The deadline to register to vote is 17:00 GMT 26 November.

How do I check if I am registered to vote?

You may already be registered. Contact your local electoral registration office to check.

Each UK local authority manages an electoral register listing the names and addresses of eligible voters in the area. Contact details for Northern Ireland are on the Electoral Office website.

Can I register to vote online?

You can register on the government's website. You will need your National Insurance number, date of birth and address. The process takes about five minutes.

The Electoral Office is keen that people should use the online system but you can also register by post by filling in a paper form.

Can I register to vote without my National Insurance number?

You can still register but you must explain why you cannot provide it and will probably be asked to provide another form of ID.

How do I register to vote if I'm at university?

Students can vote using their university or home address. It is legal to be registered in two areas, but a criminal offence to vote in both.

If students are already registered at their home address, they could use a postal vote or proxy vote if they are not there on election day.

People who are working away from home or on holiday on election day can also vote by post or proxy, which means nominating someone to cast a vote for you. Your proxy must be aged 18 or over and also registered.

How can I register for a postal or proxy vote?

The arrangement for applying for a postal vote is different in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and you will have to give a reason why you cannot attend the polling station in person.

Postal vote application forms must be returned by 17:00 on 21 November.

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

How do I register to vote if I live abroad?

You can register as an overseas voter if you are a British citizen and have been on a UK electoral register in the past 15 years.

You will have to register in the local area where you were last registered before moving overseas.

In Northern Ireland, you register by post and can only vote by proxy.

What about the armed forces?

Members of the armed forces overseas, or their spouse or civil partner, can register as a service voter or ordinary voter to vote by post or proxy. A service voter means you are registered at a fixed address in the UK for five years.

What if I am moving house?

When you move you need to re-register to your new address. If you are moving between the registration deadline and polling day you can vote at your old address.

If you are unable to return, you can apply to vote by post and have your postal vote sent to your new address. Or you can vote by proxy.

Do I have to register to vote?

Local authorities carry out an annual canvass of households and will send an "invitation to register" letter to anyone identified as being a new resident not on the electoral register.

Failure to respond to this could result in an £80 civil penalty if you do not have a valid reason. However, it is not compulsory to vote.

Woman placing vote in ballot box at election
Voter registration

  • 2.94mUK voters registered in the five weeks before 2017 election

  • 96.5% registered online

  • 36% aged 16-24

  • 33%aged 24-34

  • 48.5mpeople on electoral register in December 2018

Source: House of Commons Library/ONS

Is anyone banned from voting?

In general elections, it's all of the following:

  • Members of the House of Lords
  • Convicted prisoners
  • Anybody found guilty of electoral fraud within the past five years
  • People with any "legal incapacity" which impairs their judgement

Can someone else register me?

Not since 2014. Before then, one member of a household could sign up everyone.

Can I register to vote if I do not have a fixed address?

If you do not have a permanent address, you can register by filling in a "declaration of local connection" form.

Can I register to vote anonymously?

If you are concerned about your name and address appearing on the electoral register, you need to fill in a form and explain why your safety - or that of someone in your household - would be at risk.

Can I get help with registering if I have a learning disability?

The Electoral Commission has produced an "easy-read" version of the registration form in English and Welsh.

People with a disability can get help completing an application, but the person who wants to register to vote has to make the declaration.