How to vote

How to vote at a polling station

The polling station is the place where you go to vote. It could be a school, hall, community centre or a portable cabin. 

Find your polling station.

If you are registered to vote at a polling station, you will get a poll card about five weeks before an election.

The poll card tells you when the election is, and where your polling station is.

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm on polling day.


New requirements for voters to provide photographic identification at polling stations

It is a legal requirement for you to provide photographic identifcation before you can vote at a polling station.

For more information, see new requirements for voters to provide photographic identification at polling stations.


Marking your ballot paper

Ballot papers can be marked with a pencil or pen.

Pencils are usually provided inside polling stations for practical reasons, including:

  • ink pens may dry out or spill
  • when the voter folds the ballot paper, ink may transfer to elsewhere on the ballot paper - this could cause the vote to be rejected (for example, if it looks like they have voted for more candidates than allowed)

Pens are available from the Presiding Officer in the polling station, or you can bring your own pen with you.

There is legislation to prevent and detect tampering with ballot papers:

  • seals must be attached to ballot boxes
  • candidates and agents can be present at the close of poll and can attach their own seals if they wish
  • at the count, candidates and agents can check their seals before the ballot boxes are opened

Voting at a polling station

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Your vote is yours alone

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How to vote by post

If you have applied to vote by post, you will get a postal poll card about five weeks before an election. 

You will then get your postal voting pack about two weeks before election day.


How to apply to vote by post

If you would like to apply to vote by post, the easiest way is online at GOV.UK: Apply for a postal vote

Before you start you will need:

  • the address where you are registered to vote
  • your National Insurance number or other identity documents, for example a passport
  • if you only want a one-off postal vote, the specific date of the election or referendum you want to vote by post in

You'll also need to upload a photo of your handwritten signature in black ink on plain white paper.

If you cannot provide a signature or one that always looks the same, you may be able to apply for a postal vote signature waiver within the service.


Other ways to apply

If you cannot apply online, you can download and complete an application form to vote by post.

Return your application form to the Elections Office by either:

  • Post: Elections Office, South Tyneside Council, Town Hall, Westoe Road, South Shields, NE33 2RL
  • Email a scanned copy to: elections@southtyneside.gov.uk
  1. When you get your postal vote, remove the contents from the outer envelope. The envelope will contain:
    • a postal voting statement with your ballot paper(s) attached. If there are more than two ballot papers in the envelope, the third will be attached to the instructions
    • instructions for voting by post
    • a ballot paper envelope marked A
    • a return envelope marked B
  2. Detach the ballot paper(s) from the postal voting statement / instructions
  3. On the postal voting statement, fill in your date of birth and signature (this is to prevent fraud - you have already given these when you completed your postal application form)
  4. Read the instructions on the top of the ballot paper(s) and mark a cross against the candidate or candidates you wish to vote for (with a pen or pencil)
  5. Put the ballot paper(s) into envelope A, with the number printed on the back of the ballot paper(s) showing through the window
  6. Seal the ballot paper envelope A and put it and the postal voting statement into the return envelope B, with the return address showing through the window

How to vote by post

Post your postal voting pack as soon as possible to make sure it is received before election day.

To find a priority post box, visit Royal Mail: Services near you.

If you're too late to post your ballot paper

If you forget to vote by post, you can hand deliver it to South Shields Town Hall or any polling station in South Tyneside on election day.

The number of postal votes any person can hand deliver is limited by law to their own plus the votes of up to 5 other people.

If more than one election is being held on the same day, and separate postal packs are issued for those elections, the limit is per election.

A form must be completed when handing in postal votes. The votes will be rejected if the form is not completed, or the number handed in exceeds the legal limit.

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Ask someone else to vote on your behalf (proxy vote)

If you're unable to vote in person you can ask someone to vote on your behalf. This is called a proxy vote.

You and your proxy must be registered to vote.

The easiest way to apply to vote by proxy for a single election or referendum is to apply online:

Apply online for a proxy vote

You will need:

  • to ask your proxy's permission before you apply
  • your National Insurance number or any other identity document, for example a birth certificate
  • the address where your proxy is registered to vote
  • contact details for your proxy

You'll also need to upload a photo of your handwritten signature in black ink on plain white paper.

If you cannot provide a signature or one that always looks the same, you may be able to apply for a proxy vote signature waiver within the service.

To be a proxy, a person must be:

  • 18 or over
  • registered (or will be registered) to vote in the type of election they are appointed for

A proxy can cast the proxy vote either in person at the polling station or by post (a postal proxy).

A person cannot be a proxy for more than two people who are residents in the UK at any one election.


Other ways to apply

If you cannot apply online, you can download and complete the application form to vote by proxy (single election or referendum).

You will need to return your application form to the Elections Office by either:

  • post: Elections Office, South Tyneside Council, Town Hall, Westoe Road, South Shields, NE33 2RL
  • email a scanned copy to: elections@southtyneside.gov.uk

Your proxy must show their photo ID in the polling station to be able to be given your ballot paper. For more information, see voter ID.

If you're a care home resident

Voting by post

If you have a postal vote, care home staff must make sure you have privacy while you are marking your ballot paper. It is important that the you mark your own ballot paper.

The postal ballot paper(s) come with a postal vote statement. You must provide you signature and date of birth on the postal statement. 

Care home staff, friends or relatives can help with this, but you must sign the postal vote statement yourself.

Care home staff can help place the ballot paper(s) (without looking at how they have been marked) into the correct envelope making sure your vote remains secret. 

If you cannot provide a signature or one that always looks the same, you can apply for a postal vote signature waiver by emailing elections@southtyneside.gov.uk or calling 0191 427 7000.

Once completed, post the postal vote packs in a Royal Mail post box to be delivered back to us. 

If you miss the post, the postal votes can be handed in to a person authorised to receive them at South Shields Town Hall or at a polling station on election day. 

You can only hand in a maximum of 6 postal votes (your own and up to five others) but you must fill in a form when handing them in or they will all be rejected. This applies to postal votes handed in at polling stations or South Shields Town Hall.


Voting in person in a polling station

If residents need help with the voting in a polling station, they can take a companion with them to help them or ask the polling station staff for help.

There will be tools available to help voters with disabilities to vote independently, please see Accessible voting for all.


Proxy voting

Residents can ask someone to vote on their behalf. This is called a proxy vote.

Care home staff should avoid acting as proxy for a resident unless there is no other person who could perform this function.

For more information on proxy voting, see Ask someone else to vote on your behalf (proxy vote).


Applying to vote by post or proxy

You can apply to vote by post online at GOV.UK: Apply for a postal vote.

You can also apply to vote by post or by proxy by completing an application form.

Return your application form to the Elections Office by either:

  • Post: Elections Office, South Tyneside Council, Town Hall, Westoe Road, South Shields, NE33 2RL
  • Email a scanned copy to: elections@southtyneside.gov.uk

Electoral fraud

Your vote belongs to you. It doesn't belong to anyone who:

  • intimidates you
  • tries to bribe you
  • is pretending to be you

When someone deliberately tries to cheat at an election in this way, it could be electoral fraud.


What electoral fraud includes

Electoral fraud can include:

  • making false statements about the personal character of a candidate
  • offering an incentive to someone to get them to vote, to vote a certain way, or to stop them from voting
  • interfering with postal votes
  • including false statements or signatures on a candidate's nomination forms
  • registering to vote under a false name or without someone's consent
  • influencing someone to vote against their will
  • pretending to be someone else and using their vote

Election fraud is a serious issue and offenders can be sent to prison.


What to do if someone tries to take your vote

If someone tries to take your vote, or the vote of anyone you know, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or visit Crimestoppers: Your vote is yours alone.