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Register to vote: How to have your say in the upcoming elections

Register to vote as Britain goes to the polls on May 5 for local elections across England, Scotland and Wales

Register to vote

Time is running out to register to vote. Image credit: "https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-dropping-paper-on-box-1550337/">Pexels / Element5 Digital

Now is the time to register to vote if you want to have your say on who will be leading your local area in England, Scotland and Wales’ local elections.

The deadline for registering to vote in the May 5 elections is fast approaching.

Voters will be able to have their say on 4,000 council seats across 146 local authorities with the identity of councillors in four new councils in Cumbria, Somerset and North Yorkshire set to be decided.

All seats are up for grabs in Scotland and Wales with 1,200 roles being contested across 32 council areas in the former and 1,200 spots across 22 councils in the former.

Voters will also decide the identity of local authority mayors in Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford while the polls will also determine Dan Jarvis’ replacement as the Mayor of South Yorkshire.

Elsewhere, all 90 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly will also be decided.

Voting is not just an important way of ensuring your voice is heard, it’s a vital method of enacting the change you want to see in society.

Here’s how you can ensure you do not miss out on your right to vote this time around.

When is the deadline to register to vote?

Voters have until midnight on April 14 to sign up to vote in the May 5 elections. Scots have slightly longer to register with an April 18 cut-off point.

There is likely to be a rush of people signing up in the final hours ahead of the deadline so it is best to register early to avoid being caught out.

Failing to register by that time will mean no vote and no chance to have your say.

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How do I register to vote?

Registering to vote is simple and takes about five minutes to complete.

Head to the Register to Vote website to fill out the form. You will be asked to fill out a series of details including your name, address and where you are from and you will need your National Insurance Number to confirm your identity. You can also choose whether you want your details to appear on the electoral register.

If you need to register to vote but cannot fill out the online form, you can request a paper copy from your local Electoral Registration Office. Find your local office here

You can still register to vote if you are experiencing homelessness and have no fixed address or you are remanded in custody but have not yet been convicted of an offence or if you are a patient at a mental hospital.

That application can be made by filling out a form and indicating an address where you spend “a large amount of your time”. For a homeless person, for example, this could be a homeless shelter or hostel or even the local Big Issue office for some vendors.

The deadline to register is still April 14 – unless you live in Scotland when it will be April 18 – so you must make sure the completed form reaches the Electoral Registration Office by then. 

How old do I have to be to register to vote?

You must be aged 18 to cast your vote in England but the age limit is lower in Scotland and Wales.

In the devolved countries, 16-year-olds can cast votes in their national elections as well as some 15 year olds and some 14 year olds can vote in Scotland and Wales. Younger voters are known as ‘attainers’ and are entitled to be included on the voting register if they turn 16 by the end of the 12 months following the December 1 after the date of the election.

In order to vote, you must be a British citizen, an Irish or EU citizen living in the UK, a Commonwealth citizen who has permission to enter or stay in the UK or who does not need permission or a citizen of another country living in Scotland or Wales who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission.

How can I vote if I can’t make it to a polling station?

You can ask for a postal vote or a vote by proxy when you register to vote on either the online form or via a paper registration.

The option to have a postal voting card sent to you via email or through the post is available to be selected when you fill out the form to register to vote. It is also possible to ask for a vote by proxy – with someone else voting on your behalf.

Either option is available to select on the online registration form or on the paper copy. But the deadline to register to vote is 5pm on April 19 so you must ensure your registration reaches the local Electoral Registration Office in time.

Can I register to vote if I live abroad?

You can register to vote if you live abroad as long as you are a British citizen or were registered to vote within the last 15 years (or, in some cases, if you were too young to register when you were in the UK).

The process is the same as registering to vote as if you were a citizen based in the UK but with a few extra steps. You will need to let the Electoral Registration Office know when you left the UK as well as your last UK address.

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