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Postal vote application

The representation of the people act 2000 gave everyone the right to vote by post starting with the 2001 general election.

Electors who are registered to vote are entitled to apply for a postal vote for an indefinite period, a definite period or for a particular election.

There is no requirement for an elector to provide a reason why they want to vote by post.
A postal vote application must be made in writing, but can be in any format, letter, fax, email with a scanned signature or an absent vote application form are acceptable, as long as the personal identifier information is clear and unambiguous and is provided in the format prescribed in the regulations and as explained below.

• the signature shall appear against a background of white unlined paper of at least 5 cm long and 2 cm high


• the applicant’s date of birth shall be configured numerically in the sequence of day, month and year, i.e. DD MM YYYY

Unlike applications to register to vote, postal vote applications cannot be made online or by telephone.
Where a registration to vote application is made online and the applicant indicates that they wish to vote by post and provides their email address, the IER Digital Service will automatically email them a postal vote application form – see example below.
The applicant can print off and complete the form, then return it to their Electoral Registration Officer.
Where the applicant does not provide their email address but indicates that they wish to vote by post, the IER Digital Service informs the ERO who sends a paper copy of the postal vote application form.
There are a number of pieces of information that must be included on a postal vote application by law. The application must be made in writing and be dated, and include the following information:

• the full name of the elector.

• the address where the elector is (or has applied to be) registered to vote.

• the elector’s signature (or a request for a signature waiver – see below).

• the elector’s date of birth.

• whether the application is for a particular election (and if so, identify which one), a particular period or an indefinite period, and if it is for a particular period, it should specify that period.

• whether it is for parliamentary elections, local government elections or both.

• the address where the postal ballot pack should be sent and, if this is not the registered address, a reason for the redirection.

If an applicant is unable to provide a signature or a consistent signature due to any disability or inability to read or write, they can request that the requirement for a signature on the postal vote application (and postal voting statement) is waived. The applicant must provide with their application the reason for the request and the name and address of any person who has assisted them with completing the application.
The ERO will need to gain proof or evidence in order to be satisfied that the applicant is unable to provide a signature, be satisfied that the request for a signature waiver is genuine and is not being used as an attempt to avoid the postal vote security measures.

The ERO should ensure that all applications are date-stamped upon receipt as this is particularly important in the lead-up to an election. On the last day for applications ahead of a particular election, it is also advisable for the ERO to record the time of receipt, so that they have a clear audit trail of which applications were received before and which applications were received after the deadline.

Only electors who are registered, or will be registered, can apply for a postal vote. Once the application has passed the registration check, it must be scrutinised to ensure that it satisfies the prescribed requirements set out in paragraphs. Where it does, the ERO must confirm to the elector the outcome of the application.

If applications are incomplete the ERO should, where possible, make further enquiries to obtain the missing information. If the missing information is not submitted, the application must not be allowed.
Where it appears that the elector has made a mistake when completing their postal vote application (for example, where they have transposed their date of birth figures), the ERO should contact the elector and ask them to resubmit an application form with their identifiers.
The ERO must write to all applicants to let them know whether their application has been accepted or rejected and if an application is rejected, they must give the reason(s) why it has been rejected.

Any postal vote applications received after the deadline for a particular election must be disallowed for that election, and the elector notified of the fact.

If, however, it is an application for a definite or indefinite period going beyond the election, and the application meets all the prescribed requirements, the elector should be advised on the confirmation notice that their application will become valid for future elections. If the application is refused, you must notify the applicant of the decision and the reason for it.

An appeal procedure is provided for persons whose applications have been disallowed. Any person wishing to appeal must give notice to the ERO within 14 days of the date of the decision on the application and must specify the grounds of appeal.

The ERO must immediately forward the notice to the county court, together with a statement of

• the material facts which have, in the ERO’s opinion, been established in the case

• the ERO’s decision upon the whole case

• any point which may be specified as grounds of appeal.

Postal application forms may be scanned and stored electronically, or the ERO may keep the originals in paper form. In the case of Northumberland county council I have had written confirmation from them that all forms containing personal identifiers are scanned into the Local authority’s electoral management software provided by Idox/Civica.

Electors who have been allowed to vote by post must have the letter ‘A’ marked alongside their names in the register to be used in the polling station. The local authority EMS system has the facility to print registers especially for use in the polling station at a particular election.
Postal voters’ signatures are refreshed every five years.

The law requires EROs, by 31 January each year, to send every absent voter (postal, proxy and postal proxy voters) whose signature on the personal identifiers record is more than five years old a notice in writing

• requiring them to provide a fresh signature if they wish to remain an absent voter

• informing them of the date on which they would cease to be entitled to vote by post or by proxy in the event of a failure or refusal to provide a fresh signature (i.e. six weeks from the date of sending the notice).

Absent voters who have been granted a waiver are not affected by the refresh provisions as they do not have a signature on the personal identifiers record.

The ERO cannot require an absent voter to refresh their signatures outside the formal refresh exercise, except where you have sent a rejection notice to a postal voter after an election on the grounds that the signature provided on the returned postal voting statement did not match the example held on the personal identifiers record (and the person continues to be shown on your records as an absent voter).

The next refresh exercise will be in January 2020 and will cover those absent voters whose signatures on the personal identifiers record will become more than five years old between 31 January 2019 and 30 January 2020.

Six weeks from the sending of the original notice, absent voters will lose their entitlement to vote by post or proxy if no response is received.

This means that absent voters have just under six weeks to return the notice or the entitlement would be lost on the last day of the six-week period.

After three weeks of the date of the original notice, if no reply is received, a reminder notice should be sent to the absent voter.

The date of birth is not part of the refresh process as set out in legislation. Existing absent voters do not need to provide their date of birth again in order for their absent vote to continue.

The notice must require the absent voter to supply a specimen of their signature, and explain that if this is not received before six weeks of the date of the notice, their absent voting facility will be cancelled.

The following information should be included in the notice to explain:

• how the required personal identifiers are used and how the personal identifiers assist in deterring misuse of the entitlement to vote by post/proxy.

• the details of the absent vote currently in place for that person and the types of elections at which the person would no longer be able to vote by post/proxy if they do not provide the required signature.

• that cancellation of the absent vote for failure or refusal to supply a new sample signature does not prevent the elector subsequently re-applying for an absent vote.

• the circumstances in which the signature requirement may be waived.

• the deadline for the ERO to receive the signature (i.e. before six weeks from the date of the notice.

Any fresh signature that is received after the deadline cannot be used to add the previous absent voter back onto the relevant absent voter record.

In this case the ERO should send the person a letter explaining that the notice cannot be accepted and that if they wish to continue to have an absent vote they must re-apply and provide their identifiers on the application.
The ERO should include an application form with the letter. There is no provision for you to pre-print the date of birth you already hold on the new application form.

The ERO must notify the person in writing that their absent vote has been removed. This applies equally where the person has refused to provide a signature or has failed to respond to the notice or reminder notice.

The notice must:

• explain that the person’s absent vote has been removed because of a failure to provide a fresh signature, and that if they wish to vote they can only do so at a polling station.

• inform them of their polling station.

• remind them that they may make a fresh absent vote application, which must include their identifiers.

The ERO should include a new absent vote application form with the removal notice.

The flowchart can be downloaded here: