How to vote

You should be aware that in the run up to an election, you will only be able to vote at that election if your name has been added to the register of electors not later than 12 working days prior to the election date.

You will be sent a poll card which gives the date, time and place of polling. You don't need to take the card with you to vote, but it helps to speed the process up.

Please note:  Your nearest polling station may not be the one you can vote in, so always check the details on your polling card or use the online polling station finder.

Find my nearest polling station

When you get to the polling station, give your name and address to the poll clerk inside the polling station. If you have your poll card, you can hand it to them. However, you will still be asked to state/confirm your name and address.


There may be people with rosettes standing at the door of the polling station. They are known as tellers and they act on behalf of the political parties who wish to know whether the people who promised to vote for them have actually turned out. They will ask for your elector number so that this can be checked against their records. It is your choice whether you give this information or hand them your poll card.

Tellers are allowed at the discretion of the Returning Officer. They have strict instructions to ask for numbers after electors have voted as stopping them on the way in could be disturbing to some people who might be deterred from proceeding. If they cause any problems these should be reported to the Presiding Officer in charge of the polling station.

Once your name has been found on the register, the poll clerk will ask you to state/confirm your name and address. They will then write your elector number against a list of numbers relating to the ballot paper numbers and detach a ballot paper for your use.

The number of votes you have will vary with different elections.

  • For a general election, there is 1 Member of Parliament to elect and you will have 1 vote.
  • For council elections, the number of councillors varies between 1 and 3 so you will have 1, 2 or 3 votes depending on which ward you live in.
  • The votes for the Mayor of London and London Assembly are different again and specific information will be publicised when these elections take place.

After you have received your ballot paper check that it has an official mark and ballot paper number and take it to one of the polling booths so that you can cast your vote in private. The secrecy of the vote is really important and nobody else is allowed to tell you how to vote or to look over your shoulder when you are voting.

You should mark the ballot paper with a cross (X) in the right hand box against the name of the person or persons you wish to vote for. Some names will have a logo or symbol against them to show which political party they represent.

Do not make any other mark on the ballot paper. Anything that could reveal your identity will make your vote invalid.

When you have voted fold your ballot paper in two so that your vote or votes remain secret and place it in the ballot box. That's it, you've voted!

If you make a mistake on the ballot paper you can cross through what you have done or ask for another ballot paper. Ask the staff if you need help.

Why should you vote

Some elections are won or lost by very narrow margins. The vote of just a few people (or sometimes even one!) can decide who becomes elected, who can form governments and how people's lives will be affected.

The decisions made by our elected representatives affect everybody, whether they are local councillors, Members of Parliament, Members of the Greater London Assembly or Members of the European Parliament. It is important that the people who are elected represent the area properly. If you don't like what they do, next time you can vote for somebody that you think might do better.

Type of elections

There are basically three different types of election:

Local government elections (to Hillingdon Council and to Greater London Authority):

  • Elections for Hillingdon Council are held every four years on the first Thursday in May. The last elections were on 3 May 2018 when all 65 Councillors came up for re-election.
  • Elections for the Mayor of London and the Greater London Assembly are also held every 4 years and the last was in 2021.

Parliamentary elections (to the House of Commons and to the European Parliament);

  • Parliamentary elections are held a maximum of five years apart with the actual date being set by the Prime Minister. The last General Election was on 12 December 2019.
  • Referendums, at which you will be asked a specific question on a particular issue.

Your vote is secret

Secrecy of voting is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. The voting compartments are designed to make sure that nobody but you knows which candidate you have voted for. Once you have marked your ballot paper you should fold it so that nobody else can see how you have voted, and then put it in the ballot box without showing anybody how you have voted. The ballot box is locked and sealed by the Presiding Officer at the start of polling day, and is further sealed at the end of polling, and will not be opened until the start of the count.

Who will be standing?

At election time, a simple list of candidates will be available at Political parties or candidates may send you information at home in the run up to election day.

Page last updated: 16 May 2022