Ways you can vote
To be able to vote in an election, a person's name must be included on the electoral register. View more information on registering to vote.
You can choose to vote in an election in the following ways:
Voting at a polling station
All registered electors will be sent a poll card before an election showing what election is due to take place and when. Unless you have told us that you want to vote by one of the methods below, the poll card will also tell you where you need to go to vote. You can also view a map of where your polling station is located (please note that details of your local polling station will only be visible when an election is due to be held in your area).
Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm on the day of the election (‘polling day’), and are usually located in public buildings like schools or local halls.
When you arrive at the polling station
Give your name and address to the staff inside the polling station (they will be sat next to the ballot box). You do not have to take your poll card with you, or give your details to anyone outside the polling station.
You will be given a ballot paper containing a list of the people, parties or the options you can vote for.
Filling in your ballot paper
take your ballot paper into a polling booth
follow the instructions on the notices in the polling booth and on the top of the ballot paper to vote
put it in the ballot box
Voting at a polling station if you’re disabled
Everyone has a right to vote independently and in secret and the following support is available to disabled voters:
- wherever possible, there is disabled access to polling stations - for example wheelchair ramps and disabled parking spaces - however, if someone can’t get into the polling station because of a physical disability, the Presiding Officer can take the ballot paper to them
- low level polling booths are available in all polling stations
- there is a large print version of the ballot paper displayed in each polling station and a special device so that blind and visually impaired people can vote
- if you are a disabled voter and you need support to complete a ballot paper on your own, you can take someone with you to assist you, for example a carer or support worker (as long as they are either a relative or an eligible elector and have not already helped more than one other person to vote), or alternatively the Presiding Officer can mark the ballot paper for you in accordance with your instructions
If you need any advice, just ask the staff at the polling station – they will be happy to help you.
Read Mencap's easy read guides to voting and registering to vote.
If you are at all concerned about accessing a polling station or voting, please contact us.
Alternatively, you may choose to vote by post or by proxy for either a particular election or you can apply for a permanent proxy vote based on disability. Your completed form should be sent to the elections team. (Please note: you may send us your completed form as a scanned image via email).
I've recently changed address - where do I go to vote?
If you have changed address since the deadline for registering to vote for a particular election has passed and you are still on the electoral register at your previous address, you may go and vote at your previous polling station. If you are unsure where you are registered to vote, please contact us.
When you can't get to a polling station
If you can't get to a polling station or will be on holiday or working away from home on election day, there are alternative ways of voting:
Voting by post
Voting by post is an easy and convenient way of voting. You can apply to set up a postal vote for just one election, for example if you're going to be on holiday at the time of the election, or for a specific period of time or until further notice. Unlike a proxy vote, you do not need to provide a reason for applying for a postal vote. You can have your postal vote sent to any address (including overseas), as long as you have told us in advance.
Once your application for a postal vote has been processed, at each relevant election you will be sent a postal vote pack through the post. Your pack will contain instructions on how to complete your postal vote, your ballot paper(s), a postal vote statement which you will need to complete so that we can verify your identity, an envelope to put the ballot paper in (to maintain the secrecy of your vote) and a postage-paid return envelope.
If you are registered to vote by post then you cannot vote at a polling station and you must vote using the postal vote that will be sent to the address specified on your application form.
Please note: postal vote packs are sent to voters approximately 10 working days prior to polling day. You will need to ensure your completed postal vote is returned in time to arrive by 10pm on polling day. If it arrives later than 10pm, it will not be counted. If you are not able to send it back by post in advance, you can hand your postal vote (sealed in the return envelope provided) in at the council's offices
or at any open polling station within the Dorset Council area on polling day. If you are in any doubt as to whether your circumstances will enable you to return your postal vote in time, for example if you are overseas, you may wish to consider voting by proxy instead.
You can cancel your postal vote, but you must tell us in writing. Please note that each election or referendum has a deadline by which you may make changes to your postal voting arrangements.
If you do not receive your postal vote pack, lose it or some of the contents, or spoil your ballot paper(s), please contact us as soon as possible. Please note, however, that replacements for postal vote packs that have not been received or which have been lost cannot be issued earlier than 4 working days prior to an election, poll or referendum.
Read more about voting by post and download an application formor, alternatively, contact us for an application form. Your completed form should be sent to the elections team (please note: you may send us your completed form as a scanned image via email).
Voting by proxy
Voting by proxy is when you appoint someone you know (and trust) to vote on your behalf. You can apply for a proxy vote if:
- you are unable to go to the polling station for one particular election, for example, if you are away on holiday (this is the most common reason for applying to vote by proxy)
- you have a physical condition that means you cannot go to the polling station on election day
- your employment means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day
- your attendance on an educational course means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day
- you are a British citizen living overseas
- you are a crown servant or a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces
Your proxy must be aged 18 or over and registered to vote for that particular election or referendum. A person can be a proxy for close relatives (their spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, child or grandchild) and up to two other people.
You will need to tell the person you have appointed as your proxy how you want them to vote on your behalf, for example which candidate, party or referendum option.
Your proxy will need to go to your polling station to vote on your behalf on polling day, unless they have applied for a postal proxy vote (see below). It would be helpful if they bring with them the confirmation letter or proxy poll card they will receive from the council, although this is not essential.
You can cancel your proxy vote, but you must tell us in writing. Please note that each election or referendum has a deadline by which you may make changes to your postal voting arrangements.
Read more about voting by proxy and download a relevant form or, alternatively, contact us for an application form. Your completed form should be sent to the elections team (please note: you may send us your completed form as a scanned image via email).
Voting by postal proxy
If you appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf and they cannot get to the polling station then they can apply to vote by post for you. Their completed form (which should be submitted with or after your own proxy vote application) should be sent to the elections team (please note: they may send us their completed form as a scanned image via email).
How do I know if I am registered for a postal or proxy vote?
If you are registered for a postal or proxy vote the information is shown on your poll card. If you have not received your poll card, you can contact the elections team and they can confirm whether you have an absent voting method in place.
Emergency proxy voting
You can find out whether you qualify for an emergency proxy. You will need to download the relevant form and get this attested before sending it back to us (please note: you may send us your completed form as a scanned image via email).