A Quick Guide to the General Election

On Wednesday the 22nd of May Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made an announcement that the next UK general election will be taking place on the 4th of July 2024. This was unexpected for many and welcomed by many more. We have just under six weeks until the electorate will be able to vote for the people they want to represent them in the House of Commons. If this is your first time voting or taking part in a general election, then consider this a quick guide to what happens now.  

GE Timeline  

  • 22nd of May: Rishi Sunak makes a request to King Charles to dissolve parliament and call a general election.  
  • 30th of May: Parliament is dissolved.  
  • 7th of June: Deadline for political parties to nominate candidates and publish statement of nominations.  
  • 17th of June (by midnight): Deadline to register to vote.  
  • 18th of June: Deadline for new postal vote applications or amending existing absent voter arrangements.  
  • 26th of June (by 5pm): Deadline for new applications to vote by proxy. 
  • 4th of July: Polling Day 7am to 10pm. If you are in a polling station or queueing outside by 22:00, then you can still vote. 
  • You can find more information here

Who can vote?

To vote in a general election you must be:  

How do you vote?  

There are several ways you can vote in the UK but to be able to do any of them you must make sure you register to vote. Once you have registered to vote you are kept on the electoral roll and can vote in all subsequent elections; you do not need to register for each individual election. However, you will need to re-register if you are changing the constituency where you vote. 

You can vote in person at a polling station. After you register you will be sent a polling card with details of when and where to vote. Usually, the polling station will be at a local school or hall. You do not need to take your polling card with you to the polling station, but you do need to take photo ID with you. You will be given a ballot paper which you take with you to a polling booth, follow the instructions displayed in the booth and vote for one candidate, then leave the booth to put your ballot paper in the ballot box at the polling station.  

When voting by post a ballot paper will be sent directly to you which you fill in privately, you will then need to fill in the postal voting statement, put both the ballot and the statement in the envelope provided and seal the envelope to send your ballot back ASAP.  

If someone is voting on your behalf as proxy then they must be registered to vote, allowed to vote in general elections, and can vote in the polling station on your poll card. They will need to take their own ID with them and follow the same procedure to vote in person as outlined above.

You can find more information on the Government website here.

Things to Remember for Students

As a student you can register at both your term-time and home address, but you can only vote at one. With the date of the General Election falling in university summer holidays, it is likely that you will be at your home time address. If you are at home but would like to vote at your term time address, you will need to apply for proxy or postal vote there (see above!). If you want to know where your vote will make the most difference, check out getvoting.org/tactical-voting/

Important Links 

Register to vote.  

Check your photo ID is valid.  

Apply for postal vote.  

Apply for proxy vote.  

Who wins a vote?

UK general elections are currently determined using a voting system referred to as first past the post or FPTP. In this voting system the person who receives the highest number of votes wins the seat, a majority is not required. For example, if candidate A received 40% of the vote, candidate B receives 30%, and candidate C receives 30% then candidate A will win the seat. This can lead to situations where less popular candidates win the seat because of split votes. For example, if candidate B and C were centre left or left wing, and candidate A was right wing, then despite the fact 60% of voters voted for a left or centre left candidate, their MP will be right wing. 

Once all the votes have been counted and all the new MPs announced, the leader of the party with the largest number of MPs will become Prime Minister and form a government. 

There are other methods of voting used at different elections in the UK including various forms of proportional representation. For more on different types of voting systems check out the electoral reform society’s website here.