General Election 2024: How do I vote on July 4 and when is the deadline to register?

The UK will take to the polls on July 4 after prime minister Rishi Sunak called a snap general election at the end of May.

Speaking outside of Downing Street, the prime minister announced that King Charles had granted his request to dissolve Parliament and promised to “fight for every vote” in the run up to polling day.

The following weeks have seen fervent campaigning from all parties, as they vie for votes up and down the country. The Labour and Conservative ‘battlebuses’ are travelling far and wide to visit as many areas as possible, attempting to woo voters, and avoid gaffes along the way.

Polling has remained steady since the election was called. This is probably much to the dismay of Mr Sunak, as his party lags behind. Most of the latest predictions put Labour around 20 points ahead of the Conservatives on average.

All the large parties have now released their election manifestos, laying out their vision for the future of Britain. It is down to voters to decide which party they feel is best to take the country forward as they cast their ballot for the candidate they want to represent their area in parliament.

To cast your vote on July 4, there’s a few things you will need to be aware of. Here’s everything you need to know about voting in the next general election.

How to register to vote

Registering to vote can be done online or with a paper form.

In England and Northern Ireland you can register to vote from 16, while in Wales and Scotland it’s 14. However, you must be 18 on polling day to vote in a general election.

The deadline to register to vote in the July 4 general election was June 18 at 11.59pm, the Electoral Commission has confirmed. This date has now passed.

You must be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen, and also be resident at an address in the UK or registered as an overseas voter.

You will cast a single vote for the person that you want to represent your constituency as a Member of Parliament (MP). They will either represent a political party or be standing as an independent candidate.

MPs are elected using the first past the post voting system – whoever gets the most votes, wins.

How to apply for a postal vote

If you’ll be away from home or abroad during the general election, you can apply for a postal vote. This means you will complete your ballot paper remotely, and post it back to your polling station.

You can apply for a postal vote on the government’s website. You must first be registered to vote.

You should receive your ballot paper by post around three weeks before polling day. It must be completed and sent back to the polling station in time for them to receive it no later than 10pm on polling day, so it is advisable to return it as soon as possible after you receive it.

If you are unable to do so, you are allowed to take your completed postal vote directly to your local polling station before this deadline. You can hand in your own and up to five other people’s. It is an offence for a political campaigner to hand yours in if they do not know you personally.

How to apply for a proxy vote

A proxy vote is when someone votes on your behalf at the polling station. Similar to a postal vote, a proxy vote is for someone who is not able to physically be at the polling station on polling day.

However, it is only allowed under certain circumstances.

These are: being away on polling day, being registered as an overseas voter, having a medical issue or disability, and not being able to vote in person due to work or military service.

You must apply for a proxy vote by 5pm, six working days before the election.

However, if you are unable to vote on polling day due to circumstances such as a medical emergency or losing your photo ID, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote. You will have until 5pm on polling day to apply.

What about voter ID?

Following the introduction of new election laws in 2023, the July general election will be the first ever where people will be required to present a form of identification to vote.

Many standard forms of ID are valid, including passports and driver’s licences.

However, there are some omissions such as veteran cards, or travel passes for younger people.

If you don’t possess an accepted form of ID, you can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate from the government. They are free and do not expire, but must be ordered with time to arrive before the election date.

Read our guide to find out more about the new voter ID laws.