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Who Can Vote in the UK?

Since 1928, the UK has had a democratic voting system where all adult citizens have the right to vote. The voting age was set at 18 in 1969, and most UK-born and naturalized adult citizens have the right to vote.
All adult citizens of the UK, as well as citizens of the Commonwealth and the Irish Republic who reside in the UK, are eligible to vote in all public elections.

The Electoral Register

To vote in a parliamentary or local election, you need to be registered on the electoral register.
If you are eligible to vote, you can register by contacting your local council's electoral registration office. You can find the contact information on your local council's website or through the "About My Vote" website. You can download voter registration forms in different languages from these sources as well.
The electoral register is updated annually in September or October. A registration form is sent to each household, and it should be completed and returned with the names of all eligible residents who wish to vote.
In Northern Ireland, a different system called "individual registration" is used. Each eligible voter must complete their own registration form. Once registered, people remain on the register unless their personal details change. For more information, you can visit the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland website.
By law, the electoral register is available for public viewing, although supervision is required. You can access the register at your local electoral registration office or council office. Some public buildings like libraries may also have the register available for viewing.

Where to Vote

Elections take place at locations called polling stations (or polling places in Scotland). Before the election, you will receive a poll card that tells you where your designated polling station or place is and the date of the election. Polling stations are open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm on election day.
When you arrive at the polling station, the staff will ask for your name and address. In Northern Ireland, you will also need to show photographic identification. You will receive a ballot paper, which you take to a private polling booth to make your choice. It is important to make your own decision on who to vote for. No one can force you to vote for a specific candidate. Follow the instructions on the ballot paper, and once you have completed it, place it in the ballot box.
If it is difficult for you to go to a polling station or polling place, you can register for a postal ballot. Your ballot paper will be sent to your home before the election. You can fill it in and return it by post. You can choose this option when you register to vote.

Standing for Office

In the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth, most citizens who are 18 years or older can run for public office. However, there are some exceptions, which include:

  • Members of the armed forces
  • Civil servants
  • People convicted of certain criminal offenses
Members of the House of Lords cannot run for election to the House of Commons, but they can hold any other public office.

The UK Parliament

Members of the public can attend debates in the Palace of Westminster by visiting the public galleries in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
To secure tickets, you can write to your local MP in advance or join the queue on the day at the public entrance. Admission is free, but there may be long queues for the House of Commons, with wait times of at least one or two hours. It is generally easier to access the House of Lords.
For more information, you can visit the UK Parliament website at

Northern Ireland Assembly

In Northern Ireland, elected members, known as MLAs, gather at the Northern Ireland Assembly located at Stormont in Belfast.
There are two ways to arrange a visit to Stormont. You can either contact the Northern Ireland Assembly Education, visit the Northern Ireland Assembly website, or get in touch with an MLA.

Scottish Parliament

In Scotland, the elected members, called MSPs, meet in the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood in Edinburgh. For more information, visit the Scottish Parliament website.
You can obtain information, book tickets, or arrange tours through visitor services. You can contact them at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP, telephone 0131 348 5200, freephone 0800 092 7600, or email [email protected].

The Senedd

In Wales, the elected members, known as SMs, meet in the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay. For more information, visit the Senedd website.
You can book guided tours or seats in the public galleries at the Senedd. To make a booking, contact the Senedd Booking Service on 0300 200 6565, email [email protected], or visit the Assembly website for an online booking form.

Make Sure You Understand

  • Who is eligible to vote
  • How you can register to vote
  • How to vote in the United Kingdom
  • Who can stand for public office
  • How you can visit Parliament