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Electoral Services - Frequently Asked Questions

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Electoral terms explained

Here you will find short and easy to understand definitions of terms used in electoral services.



Absent voter

Any elector who chooses to vote by postal vote or proxy vote, rather than in person at the polling station.

Anonymous registration

This is a type of registration by which those people who feel that being on the Electoral Register could affect their safety (for instance, if they are escaping from domestic violence or their occupation would mean they must keep their identity private), can be registered without their name appearing on written records.  There are criteria to be met before this can take place


Person aged 16 or 17 who is going to become of voting age (18 years old) during the life of the current Electoral Register.

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Ballot box

A ballot box is the sealed container used to retain ballot paper(s), from the moment they are completed by voters until the moment they are counted.  The seal of a ballot box can only be broken at the count, and under strict rules.

Ballot paper

A ballot paper is the pre-printed form (with security markings) that lists all the candidates standing for election. Before you receive your ballot paper at the polling station, you will need to inform the poll clerk who you are and where you live. You must then go into a voting booth to make a mark on the ballot paper against the candidate or candidates for whom you wish to vote (this mark is usually an "X").  You should then fold your paper and place it in the ballot box. Postal voters receive their ballot papers by post at a designated address.

By election

A by election is held when a seat held by an elected representative becomes vacant.

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Also known as the annual canvass, it refers to the period during which the Electoral Registration Officer contacts every property in the borough requesting the names and nationalities of residents eligible to vote in the United Kingdom.  See also Rolling Registration.


A geographical area that an elected representative represents. In Enfield, there are three parliamentary constituencies, Edmonton, Enfield North and Enfield Southgate, each electing one representative to the House of Commons (MP).  Enfield also shares a constituency with Haringey to elect one representative for the London Assembly at Greater London Authority Elections.


Local Government elected representative.  Enfield is represented by a total of 63 councillors (three councillors elected per each of the 21 wards).  Councillors are elected every four years.

(The) Count

Refers to the end of an election when all votes are verified and counted leading to the announcement of an elected representative.

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The democratic process by which electors choose candidates to represent them.

Election Day

Election day, polling day or day of poll is the day on which an election takes place.  This is normally a Thursday.

Electoral Register

This is the unedited version of the Register. It lists the names and addresses of all registered electors. Access to the Electoral Register is strictly controlled and may only be used for a very limited number of reasons, including the organisation of elections, credit referencing and crime investigation. See also Open Register.

Electoral Registration Officer

The officer appointed by the council who is responsible for maintaining the Electoral Register in accordance with the law.

Electoral Roll

Also know as Electoral Register, Voters Roll and Register of Electors, the Electoral Roll is the list compiled by the council of people eligible to vote in elections in the borough.  It is a statutory duty of the Electoral Registration Officer to compile and maintain the Roll.

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Member of the European Parliament.  MEP's are elected every five years at European Parliamentary Elections.


Member of Parliament.  It refers to the Members of the House of Commons. MPs are elected at UK Parliamentary elections (also known as General Elections).

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Open Register

This is a shortened version of the Electoral Register, which contains only the names and addresses of those who have chosen not to opt out. This version can be sold for commercial purposes and is available for public inspection in all local libraries. See also Electoral Register.


This expression is used in connection with the Edited Register. If someone says they would like to opt-out of the Edited Register, it means they would like their name and address not included in this version, i.e. not available for sale commercially

Overseas Elector

An overseas elector is a British citizen living abroad who is eligible to register to vote at UK Parliamentary elections, European Parliamentary Elections and national referendums.  To be eligible to register as an overseas elector the person must hold a valid British passport and must appear on the Electoral Register for an address in the borough within the last fifteen years from their application.  If the person was too young to be included in the Register when he or she left the country, they may still be eligible to register if the parents or guardians were themselves included in the Electoral Register at any point during the last fifteen years from their application.  An overseas elector loses their right to vote in UK elections after fifteen years from the date on which they were last registered to vote at an address in the UK.

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Personal Identifiers

Electors applying for a postal or proxy vote must provide their date of birth and a sample of their signature (both personal identifiers).  This is a requirement is designed to assist in the detection of postal voting fraud.  Personal identifiers are checked against a statement which the voter must complete and return with their ballot paper.

Poll Card

This is a notification for an election that is going to take place.  They are issued to each elector eligible to vote at that given election and delivered to the address in the Register, two to three weeks before polling day.  A poll card sets out: the elector's name, qualifying address and number on the Register; the name of the constituency and/or ward; the date and hours of the poll; and the location of the elector's polling station.  For postal voters, the poll card sets out the likely date they will receive their postal vote.

Poll Clerk

Assistant of the Presiding Officer at a polling station.  Responsibilities include checking your name against an address on the Electoral Register and issuing ballot papers.

Polling Day

Polling day, day of poll or election day is the day on which an election takes place.  This is normally a Thursday.

Polling District

A sub-division of a ward.  There is at least one polling station location within each polling district.

Polling Station

Physical place where an elector has to go to vote.  In cases where an elector cannot or does not wish to vote in person, he or she may apply for a postal vote or a proxy vote. 

Proxy Postal Vote

This is when your proxy chooses to vote by post. See also proxy vote.

Postal Vote

This is when you choose to receive your ballot papers by post at a specified address, anywhere in the world.

Presiding Officer

Responsible officer for a polling station on election day.  Responsibilities include supervision of the lawful voting process inside the polling station and transport of ballot boxes for the count at the close of poll.

Proxy Vote

This is when you appoint someone to vote on your behalf.  This person, called a proxy, can be a relative or a friend.  This person can then vote in person at your polling station on election day, or choose to have a postal vote (proxy postal vote).

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Register of Electors

Also know as the Electoral Register, Electoral Roll and Voters Roll, the Register of Electors is the list compiled by the council of people eligible to vote in elections in the borough.  It is a statutory duty of the Electoral Registration Officer to compile and maintain the Register.


Direct vote in which the entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal.

Returning Officer

The person ultimately responsible for the conduct of an election in accordance with the law.

Rolling Registration

Applications made for registration throughout the year.

RPA 1983

Stands for the Representation of the People Act 1983, which is the main legal document regulating electoral administration.

RPR 2001

Stands for Representation of the People (England and Wales) Regulations 2001, which sets out many of the procedures regulating electoral administration.

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Voters Roll

Also know as the Electoral Register, Electoral Roll and Register of Electors, the Voters Roll is the list compiled by the council of people eligible to vote in elections in the borough.  It is a statutory duty of the Electoral Registration Officer to compile and maintain the Roll.

Voting Booth

This is the cubicle inside a polling station enabling electors to vote in privacy.

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The word is used in Electoral Services in connection with the submission of personal identifiers requested when an application for absent voting is made (postal or proxy). It refers to the exception from having to submit such identifiers to the Electoral Registration Officer on grounds of disability or when an elector cannot read or write.


Electoral district inside a borough.  Enfield is divided into twenty-one wards, each of which is represented by three councillors.

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This page was last updated on 09-Sep-2014.