Review of Polling Districts and Polling Places
Reviews of polling districts, polling places and polling stations
Local authorities are required to review their polling districts and polling places for UK parliamentary constituencies at least once every five years. In addition to compulsory reviews, local authorities may also conduct additional reviews at other points, depending on local circumstances. Additional local reviews do not affect the timetable for compulsory reviews.
The roles and responsibilities of those involved in a polling place review
The local authority
The statutory responsibility for reviewing UK Parliamentary polling districts and places rests with each relevant local authority in Great Britain for so much of any constituency as is situated in its area. A relevant local authority is, in:
- England, the council of a district or London borough;
- Scotland, a local authority;
- Wales, the council of a county or county borough.
Depending on the structure of the local authority, it may not be the full council which makes the decisions on any changes to polling districts or polling places. Some local authorities may have delegated that function, in which case the decision on polling districts and polling places becomes the responsibility of a committee or sub-committee. This will be set out in the council's constitution.
The Electoral Registration Officer (ERO)
Where a local authority makes any alterations to the polling districts within its area, the ERO must amend the register of electors accordingly - either on a notice of alteration or by publishing a revised register.
The changes to the register take effect on the date that the ERO publishes a separate notice stating that the alterations have been made, which should be done to coincide with the publication of a notice of alteration/publication of a revised register.
The (Acting) Returning Officer
The (Acting) Returning Officer ((A)RO) must comment during any review of UK Parliamentary polling districts and polling places on both existing polling stations and the polling stations that would likely be used if any new proposal for polling places were accepted.
The election rules require the (A)RO to decide how many polling stations are required for each polling place and they must allocate electors to the polling stations in such manner as they think most convenient.
The Electoral Commission
While legislation provides no role for the Commission in the review process, it does provide for a role after the conclusion of the review.
Once the local authority has published the results of its review, specified interested parties may make representations to the Commission to reconsider any polling districts and polling places. We may direct the authority to make any alterations to the polling places that we think necessary and, if the alterations are not made within two months, we may make the alterations ourselves.
The legislative requirements of a polling place review
Local authorities must comply with the following legislative requirements regarding the designation of polling districts and polling places:
- each parish in England and community in Wales is to be a separate polling district, unless special circumstances apply;
- in Scotland, each electoral ward must be divided into two or more separate polling districts, unless special circumstances apply;
- the council must designate a polling place for each polling district, unless the size or other circumstances of a polling district are such that the situation of the polling stations does not materially affect the convenience of the electors;
- the polling place must be an area in the district, unless special circumstances make it desirable to designate an area wholly or partly outside the district (for example, if no accessible polling place can be identified in the district);
- the polling place must be small enough to indicate to electors in different parts of the district how they will be able to reach the polling station.
Local authorities must also comply with accessibility requirements, which you can find in our guidance on the accessibility requirements of a polling place review.
Timing and length of compulsory polling place review
The timing of compulsory reviews of UK Parliamentary polling districts and polling places is set by legislation. Compulsory reviews must be started and completed within the period of 16 months that starts on 1 October of every fifth year after 1 October 2013.