How to vote
Methods of voting
There are three ways of voting:
- in person at a polling station
- by post
- by proxy.
Voting in person at a polling station
Following a successful application to be added to the electoral register, you will be registered to vote, in person, at a polling station. Details about voting by post or proxy can be found further down the page.
Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on polling day. You will receive a poll card before the election which will tell you when and where to vote. You do not need to take your poll card to the polling station, but it may save time if you do. If you are an anonymous elector, you must present your poll card to the Presiding Officer at the polling station. This is because your name and address will not appear on the electoral register and you will need to be identified by the electoral number printed on the poll card.
Step by step guide on voting in person at a polling station:
- Give your name and address to the staff at the polling station when you arrive.
- You will be given a ballot paper. The ballot paper will list the candidates which you can vote for. You may be given more than one ballot paper if there is more than one election taking place in your local area on the same day.
- Take your ballot paper into a polling booth. The polling booths are designed so that no one can see how you vote.
- Read the ballot paper carefully; it will give you instructions on how to cast your vote.
- Mark your ballot paper according to the instructions. A pencil will be provided for you to do this. Do not write anything else on the paper or your vote may not be counted.
- If you make a mistake on your ballot paper, let the polling station staff know and they can issue you with a replacement ballot paper.
- Fold your completed ballot paper in half, show the back of it to the Presiding Officer and put it in the ballot box.
If you need help or are unsure of what to do, ask the polling station staff for assistance; they are there to help.
If you are not sure of where your polling station is, please visit Find my nearest
Assistance at the polling station for disabled people and people with visual impairments
Assistance will be available at every polling station for people who may need it, such as disabled people and people with visual impairments. This assistance will include:
- a tactile voting template
- display of a large-print version of the ballot paper in a well-lit area where it can easily be seen before people are issued with their ballot paper
- ensuring that an enlarged hand-held copy of the ballot paper marked ‘sample’ is made available. You can use the enlarged copy in the polling booth as an aid for marking your ballot paper if this is helpful
- assistance from the Presiding Officer to blind or partially sighted voters or their qualified companions
- assistance from the Presiding Officer to disabled people, who can mark the ballot paper for you. You can also ask someone else to help you (for example, a support worker, as long as they are either a relative or an eligible elector and have not already helped more than one other person vote).
Your polling station for any election can be found on your poll card which you will receive in the post if you are a registered and eligible elector.
A list of polling stations will be made available on the Current vacancies and elections page or the specific page for the election which is being held.
Please note that this may be subject to change at short notice if a venue suddenly becomes unavailable.
There may be people sitting outside the polling station. These are called tellers and they are there on behalf of a political party or a candidate. They are not an official part of the election process. However, they are permitted to ask you for your electoral number. You do not have to give them this information if you choose not to do so.
Voting by post
If you are unable to get to a polling station, voting by post is a convenient way to vote.
If you would like to vote by post, please download the application form to vote by post. This will need to be printed out and completed in black ink.
If you live in the West Suffolk area, you should return the form to Electoral Services, West Suffolk Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU or email@example.com. You will need to ensure that you are already on the electoral register before you before submitting an application to vote by post.
When you return your application form, it will be checked against the information held on the register of electors and we will write back to you. In order to progress a postal vote application, we require that a date of birth and signature is provided. Please note that there is always a deadline for postal vote applications at particular elections.
If you live outside of West Suffolk, your electoral services office can be found on the Electoral Commission website - elections in your area
When will I receive my postal vote?
The postal voting pack will be sent to you, once we have the names of the people who are standing for election and have printed the ballot papers.
What will the postal voting pack contain?
The postal voting pack will contain:
- ballot paper(s)
- postal voting statement
- ballot paper envelope A
- return envelope B
- information sheet.
When do I need to return the postal vote ballot paper?
There will be full instructions included with your postal vote. You must return it so that it arrives by 10pm on the day of the election, otherwise it will not be counted, so ensure that you allow enough time for it to be delivered. Alternatively, you can hand the postal vote to your local council offices or your local polling station.
Voting by proxy
If you are unable to vote in person, you may nominate someone to vote on your behalf. This is called a proxy vote. You can ask anyone to act as your proxy as long as they are registered to vote and are eligible to vote in that election.
A proxy can only act for up to two persons at an election unless they are a close relative (spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild).
There is always a deadline for proxy applications at particular elections.
Application forms to appoint a proxy can be found on the Electoral Commission website - voting by proxy
If you live in the West Suffolk area, you should return the form to Electoral Services, West Suffolk Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU or firstname.lastname@example.org
If your designated proxy is unable to attend your polling station on the day, they are able to apply for a postal proxy vote by completing a postal vote application in the same way as detailed above.
You can appoint an emergency proxy up to 5pm on polling day in the following circumstances:
- you have a medical condition, illness or disability
- you are a mental health patient detained under civil powers
- your occupation, service or employment means that you cannot go to a polling station.
The emergency proxy application forms can be found on the Electoral Commission website - voting by proxy
If you live in the West Suffolk area, you must return the form to Electoral Services, West Suffolk Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU or email@example.com It cannot be handed in at the polling station.
What should I do if I change my name or my signature changes?
If you live in the West Suffolk area, you should contact Electoral Services, West Suffolk Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the relevant form to complete.
Absent vote signature refresh
Absent voters (those who vote by post or proxy) have to, by law, provide a signature and their date of birth when they first make an application. These are known as ‘personal identifiers’. This helps to prevent anyone voting fraudulently because, if the personal identifiers do not match, the vote cannot be counted.
Every January, we are legally required to write to all absent voters in West Suffolk, whose signatures are more than five years old on 31 January, to ask them to provide a fresh signature if they wish to remain an absent voter.
If you receive a letter, you will have six weeks from the date of the sending of the letter to respond, otherwise you would cease to be entitled to vote by post or proxy and you will have to vote in person or make a new application.
If you no longer want to vote by post or proxy, let us know by ticking the relevant box on the form and return it to us as soon as possible to avoid us sending you any unnecessary reminders.
Completed forms should be returned to Electoral Services, West Suffolk Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU or email@example.com
Find my nearest polling station
Find my nearest is a public access data set which provides a range of council information, such as the location of polling stations.