Published on

22 February 2024

Helping residents to vote by post at upcoming elections

New rules are coming into effect this year, including how often you need to apply and how your vote is handled

Postal voting

Residents who wish to vote by post at upcoming elections are being reminded to read about recent changes to absent voting.

New rules around postal voting are coming into effect this year, including how often you need to apply and how your vote is handled. These are as a result of the Elections Act 2022, which has seen a number of changes to elections and voting.

Local elections are taking place on Thursday 2 May, with all 54 seats up for contention on Wokingham Borough Council. On the same day, there is also a Police and Crime Commissioner election for the Thames Valley and there may be parish council elections if any seats are contested.

Absent voting allows you to vote in an election by post or by proxy if you are unable to vote in person at the polling station on the day. For example, you may be unable to vote in person if you are at work, on holiday or have a medical condition or disability that makes it difficult.

The deadline to apply for a postal vote for the May elections is 5pm on Wednesday 17 April. If you decide to vote by post, you will receive a pack that includes your ballot paper. This must be completed and returned in time for your vote to count.

Andrew Moulton, Returning Officer at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We know that a decent proportion of the borough opts for postal voting and with lots of changes coming in this year we want to make sure everyone understands them and is prepared for the May elections.

“Choosing to vote by post is a convenient option for many and allows residents who would be unable to attend a polling station in person to have the same rights. Make sure you are registered to vote and read about the changes to postal voting to ensure you are ready for the elections in May.”

If you are a postal voter, once received, you should complete and return your ballot paper pack as soon as possible using a Royal Mail post box.

If you miss the post, you can hand it in at the council offices at Shute End in Wokingham, or at your polling station on election day. However, choosing to hand in your postal vote will mean that you must complete an additional form with an authorised member of staff. If you do not, your postal vote will be rejected. Wokingham Borough Council is therefore urging residents to act promptly and ensure postal votes are returned using a Royal Mail post box.

In addition, voters will not be permitted to hand in more than five postal ballot packs in addition to their own. Political parties and campaigners will be banned from handling postal vote packs.

It is now possible to apply for a postal vote or proxy through a new central government portal. You will need to provide your national insurance number when you apply, whether you decide to use the website or a paper application.

For security reasons, all postal and proxy vote applications must include a handwritten signature, date of birth and national insurance number. This is the case for both online and paper applications.

The new legislation means postal voters must reapply to vote every three years instead of every five years. Current postal voters do not need to re-apply and will be contacted by January 2026.

If for some reason your ballot paper is spoilt, do not throw any part of the pack away. Instead, you can return it to the council and a replacement will be issued up to 5pm on polling day.

To receive a paper application form for either a postal or proxy vote, you can contact the electoral services team by email or call (0118) 974 6000. This form can be returned by email or by post to Shute End in Wokingham.

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