Registering to vote

On this page you can find the answers to frequently asked questions about registering to vote in the UK.

Who can register to vote in UK elections?

You can register to vote if you are:

  • 16 or over in England and Wales (but you cannot vote until you are 18); or 14 or over in Scotland (but you cannot vote in local elections and elections to the Scottish Parliament until you are 16 or elections to the UK and European Parliaments until you are 18)

  • A UK, Republic of Ireland or qualifying Commonwealth citizen.  Qualifying Commonwealth citizens are those who have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave.

  • A citizen of a European Union country living in the UK

  • A citizen of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British Overseas Territory living in the UK

Below is a full list of Commonwealth and European Union countries. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, and a resident in the UK, you are eligible to register to vote in UK elections. 

View the full list of Commonwealth and European Union countries (PDF)

How do I register to vote in UK elections?

If you want to register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online any time at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

To register to vote in Northern Ireland, visit our Register to vote in Northern Ireland page.

Am I registered to vote in UK elections?

To find out if you are registered to vote, you must contact your local electoral registration office. The Electoral Commission cannot tell you if you are registered to vote .

To find the contact details for your local electoral registration office, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

When can I register to vote in UK elections?

You can register to vote at any time of year as the register is updated every month. This is useful if you move home and need to register at your new address.

If you want to register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online any time at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

To register to vote in Northern Ireland, visit our Register to vote in Northern Ireland page.

How can I contact my local electoral registration office?

To find the contact details for your local electoral registration office, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

Why do I need to register to vote?

You need to be on the electoral register to vote in all UK elections and referendums. You are not automatically registered even if you pay council tax.

If you receive a request for your registration information from your local electoral registration office then you are legally obliged to respond. If you do not respond you could face a fine of up to £1,000.

It is an offence to knowingly give false information and you could face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months in prison. If you do not make an application for registration when required to do so, you could face a fine of £80.

Some people also register to vote because they want to apply for credit. This is because credit reference agencies use the register to confirm where someone lives when they apply for credit in order to counteract fraud.

Do I register to vote only once or every year?

If you want to register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online any time at gov.uk/register-to-vote. You won't need to register again unless you change address.

A form will be sent out every year to confirm who is living in your household. Once you return the form, anyone who is not already registered will be sent an invitation to do so.

For further information, you should contact your local electoral registration office. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

In Northern Ireland, you only have to register once and only re-register when your personal details change, e.g. if you move house or change your name. For more information please visit www.eoni.org.uk.

Do I have to go somewhere to register to vote?

No.

If you want to register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online any time at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

To register to vote in Northern Ireland, visit our Register to vote in Northern Ireland page.

Can I register to vote over the phone?

Some local authorities do provide a telephone registration service. You should contact your local registration office to find out. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

If I register to vote, what personal details will appear on the electoral register?

The only details that appear on the register are your name, address and a marker that determines which elections you can vote in. If you are under 18, the date of your 18th birthday will also be shown.

If I register to vote, will my personal details be provided to third-party organisations?

Registration officers keep two registers – the electoral register and the open register (also known as the edited register).

The electoral register lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in public elections. The register is used for electoral purposes, such as making sure only eligible people can vote. It is also used for other limited purposes specified in law, such as: detecting crime (e.g. fraud), calling people for jury service, checking credit applications.

The open register is an extract of the electoral register, but is not used for elections. It can be bought by any person, company or organisation. For example, it is used by businesses and charities to confirm name and address details.

Your name and address will be included in the open register unless you ask for them to be removed. You can remove your details at any time by contacting your local electoral registration office. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage. Removing your details from the open register does not affect your right to vote.

In Scotland, details of 14 and 15 year olds will not be included in the open register.

I am concerned about my name appearing on the electoral register; can I register anonymously?

Yes, you can register to vote anonymously for safety reasons – such as if you are escaping violence or have a job that puts you at risk from other people.

If you are registered anonymously, instead of your name and address appearing on the electoral register, a code will be added to the register instead.

To  register to vote anonymously you need to provide documentary evidence of a court order or an attestation from an authorised person to support your application.

Download a form to register to vote anonymously from gov.uk

To find out more, you will need to contact your local electoral registration office. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

I have submitted my application to register to vote – how long will it take for my details to appear on the register?

The electoral register is updated each month. You need to contact the electoral registration officer in your area to find out exactly when your details will be added. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

I've recently changed my name. How do I update my details on the electoral register?

In England, Scotland and Wales, to change your name on the electoral register you will need to complete a change of name form and return it to your local authority.

These forms are currently only available from your local authority so you will need to contact them to request a form in the post. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

Do I need to re-register to vote if I move home?

Yes, when you move you need to re-register to your new address. If you have registered since you moved to your new home, you do not need to register again. If you have not, you need register to vote again.

When you register to your new address, your new local authority will make sure you're removed from the register at your old address.

If you want to register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online any time at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

To register to vote in Northern Ireland, visit our Register to vote in Northern Ireland page.

Why can't I get a credit reference?

If you have been denied credit because your bank or credit reference agency is unable to verify your details on the electoral register, this is because the electoral register is often used for credit referencing purposes to counteract fraud.

In this case, you need to contact your local electoral registration office for confirmation that you are registered. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

They will be able to supply you with a letter confirming your details on the electoral register, possibly at a charge. Sometimes the records maintained by credit reference agencies are incorrect – they should be able to supply you with a copy of your record so that you can check the details.

If you have already provided confirmation that you are registered to your bank or credit reference agency, then any further problems will have to be taken up with them.

Can I remove my details from the electoral register?

It is not possible to remove yourself from the electoral register at your address unless you move. When you re-register to your new address, your new local authority will ensure you are removed from the electoral register at your previous address.
 
You can remove yourself from the open register (the register that is available for general sale) at any time by contacting your local electoral registration office. In Scotland, details of 14 and 15 year olds will not be included in the open register.

To find the contact details of your local electoral registration office, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

If you are at risk if your name appears on the electoral register, you may be able to register anonymously. For more information, see "I am concerned about my name appearing on the electoral register; can I register anonymously?".

Can Crown Servants, British Council employees and members of the Armed Forces who are posted overseas vote in UK elections?

Crown Servants (such as diplomatic service, overseas civil service), British Council employees and members of the Armed Forces who are posted overseas can register and vote in all elections. 

You can also register as a service voter if your spouse or civil partner is a member of the Armed Forces or a Crown Servant or British Council employee serving abroad.

If you want to register to vote, you can apply online any time at gov.uk/register-to-vote:

*         Register to vote as a member of the Armed Forces
*         Register to vote as a Crown Servant or British Council employee

In Scotland, if you are under 18 years old, you can also register if your parent or guardian is a member of the Armed Forces and you are living with them, or if they are a Crown Servant of British Council employee and you are living abroad with them.

For further information, about registering as a service voter you should contact your local electoral registration office. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

You can then choose to vote by post or by proxy (someone voting on your behalf). Postal votes may only be sent out a week before the election. You will need to consider whether this gives you enough time to complete and return your postal ballot papers in time. It may be better to appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.

I'm a student – which address should I use to register to vote?

Students may be entitled to register at both their home address and their university address, but can only vote once to the same elected chamber or position.

For example, you may be registered in two different London Boroughs. You can vote once in each borough election as they are elections to two separate town halls, but at the London Mayor and Assembly election you can only vote once as they are elections for the same body or post.

The final decision on a registration rests with the electoral registration officer that you are trying to register with. You should contact your local electoral registration office for further information. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

Can I be registered to vote at two different addresses?

You can be registered to vote at two different addresses if you are resident at both addresses and spend an equal amount of time at each.

For example, students can be registered at their home and term time addresses. The final decision as to who is eligible to register at an address rests with the electoral registration officer for that area.

It is an offence to vote twice in the same election, such as at a general election. However, you can vote in elections at two separate local councils.

What is the new system of voter registration in Great Britain?

Individual electoral registration was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales in 2014.

Under the new system everyone is now responsible for registering themselves to vote. Under the old system the 'head of every household' could register everyone who lived at their address.

If you have registered yourself at your current address since 10 June 2014 in England and Wales or 19 September 2014 in Scotland – and you have not moved since – you will be registered to vote under the new system.

If you are unsure whether you are registered under the new system, contact your local electoral registration staff. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

Can I find a lost friend or relative on the electoral register?

Finding a lost friend or relative on the electoral register could be difficult because electoral registration is carried out by the local electoral registration office for each area and there is no official centralised electoral register that can be searched.

To view the electoral register in a particular area you should contact the relevant local authority. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.

The length of time local authorities maintain their registers for varies, but once they are released they are sent to the British Library. The General Register Office or the National Archives may also be able to assist you.

Can I search the electoral register online?

No, electoral registration is managed locally by the local electoral registration office for each area and there is no official centralised electoral register that can be searched online.

If you are trying to trace a friend or relative, see 'Can I find a lost friend or relative on the electoral register?'. If you would like to check if you are registered, contact your local electoral registration office. To find their contact details, enter your postcode in the 'Your local area' section of our homepage.