When is the UK general election and who can vote?

A woman holding a polling station sign

Millions of UK voters will go to the polls on 4 July.

It is too late to register to vote in the general election, or to apply for a postal vote, but you can still nominate a proxy to vote on your behalf.

What is a general election and how many MPs are there?

The general election is to elect Members of Parliament - or MPs - to the House of Commons.

The UK is divided into 650 areas, called constituencies, each of which elects one MP to represent local residents.

Most candidates represent a political party, but some are independent.

Who can vote and how do I register?

Anyone on the electoral register who is 18 or over on polling day can vote if they are a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a Republic of Ireland citizen with a UK address.

All UK citizens who live abroad can register to vote in the constituency where they were previously resident or on the electoral roll.

Students can be registered at both their home and term-time addresses, but must only vote in one place.

Those who cannot vote in general elections include prisoners serving a sentence in jail, and peers from the House of Lords.

The deadline to register to vote in the general election has passed.

How does voting work?

In a general election, each person has one vote.

On election day, registered voters in each constituency vote for their preferred candidate in their local polling station, which is open between 07:00 and 22:00. Some people vote by post in advance.

Under a system called "first past the post", the candidate with the most votes becomes the MP for that area.

What constituency am I in?

This election will use new constituency boundaries, redrawn to reflect population changes and to even out voter numbers.

Enter your postcode in our tool to find out which constituency you are in, who you can vote for and where you can vote.

Click here to see the BBC interactive

BBC experts analyse the party manifestos

How do postal votes work?

If you cannot attend your polling station in person on election day - and you had already registered - the deadline to apply for a postal vote was 19 June.

For your postal vote to count, you must return your voting pack to the elections team at your local council by 22:00 BST on polling day.

Alternatively, you can take it your polling station on election day before it closes at 22:00.

You can apply for an emergency postal vote in Northern Ireland until 17:00 on Wednesday 26 June.

How do proxy votes work and what is the deadline?

You can also nominate someone else to vote on your behalf. You and your proxy must both be registered to vote.

The deadline to apply for a proxy vote for the general election in England, Scotland and Wales is 17:00 on Wednesday 26 June.

The deadline in Northern Ireland has passed.

You can request an emergency proxy vote after this deadline if last-minute work commitments or a medical emergency mean you can no longer vote in person.

You can apply for this up to 17:00 on polling day, Thursday 4 July in England, Scotland and Wales, or if you are overseas.

You can apply for an emergency proxy vote in Northern Ireland until 17:00 on Wednesday 26 June.

What photo ID do I need to vote at the general election?

Since May 2023 voters in England, Scotland and Wales have had to show a valid form of photo ID at polling stations to vote in person at a general election.

You do not need your polling card.

There are 22 acceptable forms of ID, including:

  • passports

  • driving licences

  • Older or Disabled Person's bus passes

  • Oyster 60+ cards

You can use out-of-date photo ID as long as you look the same.

Alternatively, anyone registered to vote without the correct ID - or who no longer looks like their photo - can apply for a free document called a voter authority certificate.

The deadline to apply for a voter authority certificate to use in the general election is 17:00 on Wednesday 26 June.

If you realise you do not have valid ID after this deadline, you can apply for an emergency proxy vote up until 17:00 on polling day.

Voters in Northern Ireland have had to show photo ID since 2003. There are nine acceptable forms of ID including:

  • passports

  • driving licences

  • senior travel passes

  • war disablement passes

Voters in Northern Ireland without valid ID can use the Electoral Identity Card.

What happens to Parliament and MPs before the election?

Parliament was dissolved - the official term for closing it ahead of an election - on Thursday 30 May.

Dissolving Parliament means MPs lose their status, and those who want to return have to campaign for re-election.

Government also enters a pre-election period - previously known as "purdah" - which restricts ministerial and departmental activity during the campaign.

What happens after the election results are announced?

After the votes have been counted, the King asks the leader of the party with the most MPs to become prime minister and to form a government.

The leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the leader of the opposition.

If no party ends up with a majority of MPs - meaning it cannot pass legislation with just its own MPs - the result is a hung Parliament.

At this point, the largest party might decide to form a coalition government with another party or operate as a minority government, relying on votes from other parties to pass any laws.

The new Parliament will meet on 9 July, when it will elect a Speaker and swear in members.

This will be followed by the State Opening of Parliament and the King's Speech, when the government outlines its priorities for the months ahead, on 17 July.

How often are general elections held?

The latest a Parliament can be dissolved for a general election is on the fifth anniversary of the day it first met.

For the Parliament which has just been dissolved, that date was 17 December 2024.

However, 25 working days are then allowed to prepare for the election.

So the next election had to be held by 28 January 2025.

The prime minister can call the election at a time of their choosing, within the five-year period.

Mr Sunak became prime minister on 25 October 2022 when he succeeded Liz Truss, who took over from Boris Johnson.

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