How we're making polling stations COVID-19 safe
The elections on Thursday 6 May 2021 will take place at a time when Covid-19 continues to present risks to public health. Depending on the infection rate, measures taken to control the spread of the virus may change as we approach May.
We are working hard with HM Government, the Electoral Commission, the wider electoral community and public health authorities to help ensure you can stay safe when casting your vote.
What to expect at the polling station
We are putting arrangements in place to help ensure polling stations are safe places to vote. You can expect many of the measures you’ve become used to over recent months in shops and other public places. The measures will include:
- You must wear a face covering when attending the polling station (unless medically exempt), follow physical distancing rules and heed any advice given to you by staff.
- In most places at the ‘Way In’ you will be greeted by a polling station steward and asked to use hand sanitiser as you enter the polling station.
- Floor markings and signage will direct you to follow a one-way system to the ballot paper issuing desk and beyond.
- Please bring your unique QR-coded Official Poll Card with you to the polling station and show it to the scanner when the poll clerk asks you to do so.
- The poll clerk will issue your ballot paper(s) and if you don’t have your own, a sanitised pencil. They will tell you which numbered polling booth you must go to.
- In the polling booth, mark your ballot papers straight away. Then, keeping them separate fold each ballot paper in half and go to where the ballot boxes are.
- The ballot box labels will be the same paper colours as your ballot papers. Put your vote in the correct ballot box – avoid touching the ballot box lid, if you can.
- Follow the ‘Way Out’ signs to leave the polling station straight away. More hand sanitiser will be available as you exit – please do use it.
- We ask that you take your poll card (and any disposable mask/rubbish) home with you to dispose of safely and securely.
- Poll staff will sanitise issuing desks, polling booths, ballot box lids and other touch points after every 15 electors or every 30-minutes, whichever is earliest.
- For everyone’s safety, poll staff will be wearing face masks and face shields.
- There will be a limit on the number of people allowed in the polling station at any one time. The limit depends on the size of the room and other things that have been risk assessed in advance.
- Any need to queue is likely to be only for a very short time but please remember to follow physical distancing rules at all times.
Will I need to bring my own pen or pencil?
- You are always welcome to use your own pen or pencil, though the poll clerk will offer you a freshly sanitised pencil if you don’t have one.
Voting by post or by proxy
If you do not wish to vote at a polling station in May, you can vote by post or by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf: this is known as a proxy vote.
Vote by post
We are working hard to ensure that polling stations will be safe places to vote in May, but if you wish vote by post, apply to vote by post now.
Vote by proxy
If you can’t cast your vote in person, you can ask someone you trust to cast your vote for you. This is called a proxy vote and the person casting your vote is often referred to as your proxy. The person voting on your behalf can either go to your polling station to cast your vote or can apply to vote for you by post.
Vote by emergency proxy if you are self-isolating on election day
Anyone who needs to self-isolate with Coronavirus will still be able to vote with an emergency proxy vote. The legislation will allow anyone who is self-isolating due to COVID-19 to access an emergency proxy vote, up to 5pm on election day.