FAQ categories

Registering to vote

How do I register to vote?

You can register to vote online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

This is a government website and the online form only takes a few minutes to complete. You will need to have your national insurance number to hand to complete the process. Each person should complete the online form individually.

Am I eligible to register to vote?

British citizens, Irish citizens and qualifying Commonwealth citizens (including those from Cyprus and Malta) can register to vote in all elections.

You can register to vote at 16, but you can’t vote until you’re 18.

Citizens of other EU member states resident in the UK can vote in local government elections but not in UK Parliamentary elections. EU citizens can also choose to vote in European Parliamentary elections in the UK rather than in their home country but must make a special request to do this.

Why do I need to provide my national insurance number?

You are required to provide your date of birth and national insurance number to confirm your identity and to prevent fraud.

The electoral register

What is the open register?

The open register is a version of the electoral register that can be purchased by anyone. It may be used by businesses or charities to confirm name and address details.

Your name will be included on the open register unless you ask for it to be removed.

If you want to request that your name is removed from the open register, please email your request (including your name and address) to open-register@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

How is my personal information used?

We will only use the information you give us for electoral purposes. We will look after personal information securely and follow the Data Protection Act 1998. We will not give personal information about you and the other people in your household to anyone else or another organisation unless we have to by law.

The electoral register may be used for certain specified purposes including:

  • Political parties and election candidates are entitled to receive a copy of the electoral register and may use it for electoral purposes
  • Credit reference agencies may purchase a copy of the electoral register and may use it for credit checking purposes
  • The Jury Summoning Bureau may use it for selecting people for jury service
  • It may also be used for detecting crime (including fraud)

Can I look at the electoral register?

Yes, the electoral register is available for public inspection. It can be viewed under supervision in the Central Library (Guildhall Square) at the History Centre on the 2nd floor.

The register is not published in name order. It is published by electoral ward and then lists voters in each polling station sub-division in address order.

How do I remove someone from the electoral register at my address?

If someone has moved out of your address, you can let us know by emailing us at: electoral-register@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

Voting in person

Where is my polling station?

If you’re registered to vote you will receive a poll card shortly before an election. This will tell you where your polling station is, what day the election is being held and other election information. Your polling station is most likely be a church hall, community centre or school near where you live. If you’re unsure which polling station you should go to, please use this guide.

How long will it take to cast my vote at a polling station?

It should only take a few minutes to vote. If you are asked to queue, please be patient and we will work to enable you to vote as quickly as possible.

If you are still in a queue waiting to vote at 10pm, you will be able to vote before the polls close.

What happens when I get to the polling station?

Polling station staff will be on hand to greet you and invite you in as soon as polls open at 7am.

The staff will give you a ballot paper listing who you can vote for. Depending on the elections taking place in your area, you may have more than one ballot paper to complete.

Take your ballot paper into a polling booth. There will be a shelf for you to lean and write on.

How do I complete the ballot paper?

Take your time: read the ballot paper carefully and complete it in line with the instructions.

Don’t write anything else on the paper, or your vote may not be counted.

If you make a mistake, don’t worry – as long as you haven’t already put it in the ballot box, just let the polling station staff know and they can give you a replacement ballot paper.

Once you’re done, fold your completed ballot paper in half and put it in the ballot box. This will be on the desk beside the poll clerks.

What if I need help at the polling station?

If you’re not sure what to do, or need any help, just ask the staff at the polling station – they will be happy to assist you.

What if I have access issues and need assistance at the polling station?

If you have a disability which means you can’t fill in the ballot paper yourself, you can ask the presiding officer – the person in charge of the polling station – to mark the ballot paper for you, or you can take someone along with you to help you.

If you have a visual impairment, you can ask for a large print ballot paper to refer to when you cast your vote, or a special tactile voting device that is designed so you can mark your ballot paper on your own.

Should I tell anyone who I voted for?

Your vote is yours and yours alone: you do not need to tell anyone how you voted.

Exit polls are sometimes conducted, where people – usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters – ask voters leaving the polling station who they voted for to help them predict what the outcome might be. You do not need to respond to their questions if you don’t want to.

Political discussion is not allowed inside and immediately around the polling station and staff will ask you to stop so that there’s no risk of influencing other voters. If you want to debate your vote with friends or family, do it away from the polling station.

Can I take selfies or other photos while I’m voting?

You shouldn’t take photos inside the polling station as it might put the secrecy of the ballot at risk.

You are more than welcome to take photos outside the polling station and share them on social media to encourage your friends and family to vote.

Can I take my friend/partner/children/parents/dog to the polling station?

You can go along to the polling station with whomever you like, but only those registered to vote at that station will be able to go inside. You must not be accompanied into the polling booth by another adult, unless you have a disability, in which case you can take someone in to help you, or you can ask one of the polling station staff for their help.

Children are welcome at polling stations. While your child must not mark the ballot paper for you, you will be allowed to take them into the polling booth with you.

Animals, apart from assistance dogs, are not usually allowed inside polling stations, so will need to be secured outside if you do decide to take them with you.

What are ‘tellers’? Why are they asking for the number on my poll card?

You might see people outside the polling station who ask you for the number on your poll card. These people are called ‘tellers’, and are volunteering on behalf of candidates or parties. They will use the information you give them to check who has voted, and to remind people who haven’t yet voted, to do so.

They are allowed to be there and to ask for the information, but you don’t have to give them any information if you don’t want to. If you are concerned about the conduct of a teller, speak to a member of staff at the polling station.

During the coronavirus pandemic tellers should follow the national social distancing guidance in the same way as everyone else.

Which ward am I in? Who is my Councillor?

Please view our basic ward map (below) to find out which council ward you are in, or find your councillors by ward.

Voting by post or proxy

How do I apply for a postal or proxy vote?

If you are unable to get to your polling station on polling day you can apply to vote by post, or you can appoint someone to vote on your behalf as proxy.

Follow the link for more information about postal and proxy votes.

Is voting by post safe?

Yes, voting by post is safe and proven cases of electoral fraud are rare. When voting by post, you should mark your vote on the ballot paper in secret, and seal the envelope yourself.

You will also be asked to give your date of birth and signature when applying for a postal or proxy vote. This makes postal voting safe, because when you return your postal voting pack your signature and date of birth are checked against those you provided before to confirm your identity.

Your signature and date of birth are separated from your ballot paper before it is looked at or counted, so giving this information will not affect the secrecy of your vote.