A beginner’s guide to voting in the general election

The general election is here – it’s time to vote for action on climate and nature. But how does it all work? Here’s a quick guide to casting your vote.


Throughout Thursday 4 July people all across the UK elect their government representatives for the next five years.

Here’s how to make sure you have a say – and elect the best candidate for you and your community.

Registering to vote 

There are a few different ways to cast your vote, but one thing is certain: you need to be registered to vote. You must register to vote by 11:59pm on Tuesday 18 June 2024. 

If you’re not sure whether you’re registered, you can check online through your Electoral Registration OfficeCheck especially if you’ve recently moved or live at more than one address. If you received a polling card in May for the local elections, you’ll be registered at that address.


If you’re a student, figure out where will you be on Thursday 4 July, 2024. Are you registered there? If not, register above at the address you will be at on polling day.

You can also register for a postal or proxy vote (when someone else votes for you) – see below for more details. And tell your friends to check as well – if you’re registered in your university town, but are likely to be at home, chances are your friends might be too.

Casting your vote

There are different ways of casting your vote:

  1. In person at your local polling station, on Election Day – Thursday 4 July 2024. This is how most people vote.
  2. By postal vote – note that you need to apply for your postal vote by 5pm on Wednesday 19 June. You can apply for a postal vote online or by post.
  3. Through a proxy vote. If you can’t get to the polling station yourself, another UK-registered voter can vote on your behalf. You’ll need to apply by 5pm on Wednesday 26 June 2024 to vote by proxy in on 4 July 2024.

This is the first general election where photo ID – like a passport or driving licence – is required. Not all forms of ID are valid, so check if you’ve got one that will work. If not, you can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.

What to expect at the polling station

Your polling card will tell you where your polling station is – but you don’t need the card to vote. Just make sure you have your photo ID.

The polling station will have been temporarily set up in a school hall or community centre, reasonably close to where you live. It might be a different place to where it was last time, so double check.

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm on polling day, and queues can form at busy times, especially in the evening.

Make a plan of when you’ll vote, maybe bring a friend – and be prepared to wait if you can only go later in the day, as queues can form. Once you’re in the queue, you should be able to vote – as long as you joined it before 10pm.

Polling station dos and don’ts

Dogs (apart from assistance dogs) aren’t usually allowed inside polling stations. Because of this, there’s now a tradition of pictures of dogs outside polling stations flooding social media on polling day.

Once inside, you’re not allowed to take photos (or even use your phone unless it’s essential for accessibility reasons). Taking a photo risks the secrecy of the ballot – even just accidentally revealing how someone else has voted is a fine of up to £5000 or six months in prison. You can take photos outside however.

You’re not allowed to talk about the candidates or parties inside the polling station. Keep your phone in your pocket, and do your research ahead of time.

Getting, marking and submitting your ballot paper

You’ll be asked for your name and address and get given a ballot paper. 

You can use any free booth, and pencils are provided (but you’re also allowed to use your own). Guidance in the booth will show you exactly what to do to mark your ballot paper. Don’t worry, if you make a mistake, you can ask for a fresh one.

You then fold the paper in half, and post it into the box.

And that’s it, you’ve voted!

What's next?