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When is the General Election and how can I vote?

Polling Stations will open at 7am on the day of the General Election (Jane Barlow/PA)
Polling Stations will open at 7am on the day of the General Election (Jane Barlow/PA)

The General Election is fast approaching and will mark a historic moment as voters decide which party, or parties, will form the next government.

Here is all you need to know about how polling day works and how to vote.

What is a General Election and how many MPs will be elected?

The General Election is the process of electing members of Parliament who will sit in the House of Commons.

Voters select one candidate each in their constituency to represent them in the process of debating, scrutinising and voting on proposed legislation and policy.

There are 650 parliamentary constituencies across the UK, with most candidates representing political parties.

However, some candidates will be independents who are not affiliated to any political party.

MPs are elected under a “first past the post” system, which means the candidate with the most votes automatically enters Parliament.

When is the General Election taking place?

The General Election takes place on Thursday July 4. Rishi Sunak confirmed the date when he announced the election on May 22.

Parliament was dissolved by the King on May 30 and polling day set for 25 working days later. The proclamation also confirmed the date for the return of Parliament after the election as July 9.

This process was conducted in accordance with the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act, which replaced the Fixed-term Parliament Act in 2022.

Who is able to vote?

Anyone who is over 18 and on the electoral register can vote, as long as they are a British citizen, a Commonwealth citizen who meets the residency requirements, or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland with an address in the UK.

The deadline for registering to vote was June 18.

POLITICS Election
(PA Graphics)

UK citizens who live abroad can register to vote in the constituency where they were previously residents, or on the electoral role.

People serving jail sentences and peers in the House of Lords are unable to vote in General Elections.

How can people vote?

Registered voters can either vote in-person on July 4 or by post in advance.

Postal voting can either be a direct vote by an individual, or a vote by proxy.

Voting by proxy involves asking someone else to vote on your behalf if you are unable to attend a polling station on polling day.

POLITICS Election
(PA Graphics)

People who qualify for this process include those registered as an overseas voter and those with a medical issue or disability.

The deadline for postal vote applications was 5pm on June 19.

What happens on polling day?

Polling stations in constituencies are open between 7am and 10pm.

The locations, which often include schools, town halls and other public buildings, will be set-up and listed by local councils.

People voting in person will have to provide photographic identification for the first time at a General Election.

What happens when polling stations close?

Soon after polling stations close at 10pm an exit poll is announced.

This poll is the results of a survey of in-person voters in a sample of about 150 constituencies across the UK.

Exit polls, which have been conducted in various ways since 1974, have correctly predicted the largest party at every election since, according to the Institute for Government.

Does the Government continue operating as normal during a General Election Campaign?

The Government continues to function and the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and junior ministers continue in their roles.

However, Government activity is restricted during the pre-election period, which usually comes into force when Parliament is dissolved, but has sometimes begun before this event.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the G7 summit
Rishi Sunak remains the Prime Minister during the General Election campaign (Christopher Furlong/PA)

For the forthcoming General Election the pre-election period, previously known as “purdah”, began when Parliament was prorogued on May 24.

The restriction of Government activity during the pre-election period is to ensure public money is not used to support the campaign of the party in power, while maintaining the impartiality of the civil service.