General election 2019: Who can register to vote in a general election?

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

The deadline day for people who wanted to register to vote in next month's general election passed on Tuesday 26 November.

You need to register at least 12 working days before an election - so, with the election on 12 December, the deadline was 26 November.

For postal votes the deadline was even earlier.

Anyone who failed to sign up through the process, which took about five minutes, will be unable to vote on election day.

This is what you needed to know about being ready to cast your ballot, and the people who haven't registered yet.

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 Republic of Ireland citizen
  • resident at a UK address, or a UK citizen living abroad who has been registered in the last 15 years
  • not legally excluded from voting

You can register to vote at any time if you are 16 or over - or 14 or over in Scotland.

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Who hasn't registered to vote?

There are about 45.8 million people registered to vote in parliamentary elections in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Electoral Commission has carried out research on who is the least likely to be registered to vote, although it can't give exact figures.

Ethnic minorities are in danger of missing out on the chance to vote at the next general election, it warned.

It estimates that 25% of black voters in Great Britain aren't registered, followed by 24% of Asian voters. Almost one third of people with mixed ethnicity haven't registered yet either.

Its research also suggests that young people between the ages of 18 and 34 are less likely to be registered to vote. One in three weren't registered on the electoral roll in September 2019. That's in comparison with 17% of the general population that hadn't signed up to cast their ballot yet.

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 England, Wales and Scotland are on the Electoral Commission's Your Vote Matters website, and for Northern Ireland on its electoral office website.

Can I register to vote online?

You can register on the government's website. The service is also available in Welsh. You will need your National Insurance number, date of birth and address. The process takes about five minutes. You can register by post by filling in a paper form, although a different form is used in Northern Ireland.

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. 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 can I register for a postal or proxy vote?

Anyone in England, Scotland and Wales can apply for a postal vote. No reason needs to be given, unless voting in Northern Ireland.

The deadline to apply for a postal or proxy vote in Northern Ireland was 17:00 GMT on 21 November.

Applications for postal votes in the rest of the UK needed to be received by 17:00 GMT on 26 November and for proxy votes by the same time on 4 December.

Postal votes must be received by the time the polls close.

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 England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online to vote by post or by proxy. 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
  • EU citizens living in the UK, except people from UK, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta
  • 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.

What are the parties promising you?

Here's a concise guide to where the parties stand on key issues like Brexit, education and the NHS.