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Factbox: How will UK election work?

  • Published at 03:01 pm November 7th, 2019
Pro-brexit protesters hold placards outside the Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain October 31, 2019 Reuters

This time, the formal dissolution of Parliament and start of official election timetable began just after midnight on November 6

Although formally the United Kingdom does not have a written constitution, electoral law and procedures are firmly established and well understood.

This time, the formal dissolution of Parliament and start of official election timetable began just after midnight on November 6.

  • The formal start of an election campaign requires TV and radio broadcasters in the UK to adhere more tightly to standards of balance and impartiality in covering election news.
  • Political parties are not permitted to advertise on TV except via allocated 5 or 10 minute party political broadcast slots. 
  • Such rules do not apply to newspapers.
  • Overall election spending is capped and closely monitored especiallyat a constituency level.

The House of Commons has 650 seats. By tradition, established parties do not contest the seat held by the Speaker.

  • To form a majority government, a party needs to win 326 seats. This last happened in 2015 and before that 2005.
  • If no party has a majority, as was the case in two of the last three elections (2010 and 2017), the leading party gets the first opportunity to form a coalition or pact with one or more other parties to gain control.

The prime minister is chosen by the winning party's MPs and formally appointed by the Queen, who is duty bound to follow their advice.

How is the schedule decided?

Parliamentary Elections Rules in Schedule 1 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 set out a standard 25 working-day timetable, which the current election is following. This sets out key dates for delivering nomination papers and statutory notices that must be issued by returning officers.

For most of the public and candidates, the key dates to remember are:

  • November 14: Deadline for candidates to deliver nomination papers or candidates to withdraw (4pm)
  • November 26: Deadline to register to vote (by midnight) 
  • December 12: Polling day (7am-10pm)

Who can vote?

Anyone aged 18 or over on polling day who is a British or Irish citizen or Commonwealth citizen who is formally resident can be registered to vote. Most eligible people will be registered already via routine local authority checks, but anyone eligible who is unregistered or moved house, can register online until 10 days before the vote.

EU citizens, who have until Brexit automatic rights of residence, can only vote in local elections, unless they have applied for settled status. 

Only members of the House of Lords are formally prohibited from voting. The Queen and senior members of the Royal Family refrain from voting by convention.

Who can stand as an MP?

  • Most people over 18 on polling day can stand as a candidate provided, they are a British citizen or a qualifying Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland citizen resident in the UK.
  • Most candidates stand as part of a political party, but there is no bar on people standing as independents or in their own name.
  • Candidate must obtain 10 signatures in support from registered voters in the constituency they wish to stand as part of their nomination papers. They must also pay a £500 deposit, which will be returned to them if they get at least 5% of the votes in their constituency.
  • Candidates must meet certain conditions – prisoners and certain civil servants, judges and members of the police and armed forces cannot stand
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