Local elections 2023: What are the rules at polling stations, can you take a selfie and are dogs allowed?

Rules you need to know before visiting a polling station to vote
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With the local elections nearly upon us, it won’t be long until people are lining up to vote for their preferred candidates. While it’s a fairly straightforward process, there’s a whole host of conventional rules to being inside a polling station and some behaviour that is outright banned.

From practical questions such as ‘where is my nearest polling station’ to more inquisitive queries like ‘can I still vote if I’m drunk,’ here’s everything you need to know about voting in your local polling station.

Ten polling station rules you need to know before voting

1. Can I take a selfie inside the polling station?

While it might be tempting to snap a proud photo of yourself carrying out your democratic duty , due to the risk of accidentally photographing another person’s ballot paper, the activity is banned inside the polling station.

The punishment for revealing how someone else voted is a fine of up to £5,000, or six months in prison. People are encouraged to take photos outside instead.

2. I’m voting on behalf of someone else, do I need their ID?

The only ID you need inside the voting booth is your own, even if you’re voting as someone’s proxy. You must make sure you bring the correct form of ID though and the name on your ID must match your name on the electoral register.

There are 22 forms of valid ID which can be found on the government website.

3. How do I find my polling station?

Anyone registered to vote will be sent a poll card with your local polling station details. However, in the case that you can’t find this, you can find your local polling station on the Electoral Commission website.

4. Will I get in trouble for spoiling my ballot paper? 

In one of the more popular acts to express your dissatisfaction with the listed candidates, voters may choose to spoil their ballotIn one of the more popular acts to express your dissatisfaction with the listed candidates, voters may choose to spoil their ballot
In one of the more popular acts to express your dissatisfaction with the listed candidates, voters may choose to spoil their ballot

In one of the more popular acts to express your dissatisfaction with the listed candidates, voters may choose to spoil their ballot. This act is not illegal but the vote does not count for or against any candidate.

5. Will I be let into the polling station if I’ve been drinking?

There is no law stating that those intoxicated can’t vote. However, local authorities do have the power to remove you from the premises if you are disrupting other voters or influencing the casting of a vote.

Polling stations will open between 7am and 10pm on polling day in England therefore there’s plenty of time to sober up if you are concerned.

6. Can I promote a candidate when in the polling station?

According to the Polling Stations (Regulation) Bill, it is an offence to campaign on behalf of any candidate, party or organisation. If found to be guilty of an offence, you can be fined up to £5,000 or a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison.

Guidelines from the Electoral Commission say that dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying” roleGuidelines from the Electoral Commission say that dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying” role
Guidelines from the Electoral Commission say that dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying” role

7. Can I discuss the candidates?

Political discussion is banned in the polling station due to the risk of oral communication eliciting voting intentions or influencing a vote.

8. Can I take my dog into the polling station?

There’s no firm rule on animals being present inside the polling station. In fact, it’s typically down to the discretion of the local authority. Guidelines from the Electoral Commission say that dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying” role, such as assistance dogs.

9. Can my children come?

Yes, children are allowed inside the polling station. In fact, it’s encouraged to help them learn the mechanisms of democracy. However, keep a close eye on them as they are not allowed to mark your vote on the ballot paper.

children are allowed inside the polling stationchildren are allowed inside the polling station
children are allowed inside the polling station

10. If I accidentally spoil my ballot, can I vote again?

If you haven’t yet posted your ballot paper in the box, it is still possible to inform the staff and get a new one. Staff at the local authority are able to cancel your ballot paper if any mistakes occur, and issue you a fresh one.