Voting whilst in prison

Guidance on your voting rights should be available at reception and other appropriate locations around the prison and should be given to you if you ask for it.


Restrictions on Prisoner Voting Policy Framework also has information about this subject.


Who can vote in prison?


If you are convicted serving a custodial sentence are not allowed to vote whilst you are detained in custody.


You may be able to vote if you are:


  • ·         Unconvicted (also called ‘on remand’)

    ·         Convicted but not yet sentenced

    ·         A civil prisoner

    ·         serving a default term for non-payment of a fine.

    ·         committed to prison for contempt of court.

    ·         in the community on home detention curfew (HDC) or released on temporary licence (ROTL)


Prisoners on HDC and ROTL are only eligible to register to vote once they are in the community and become ineligible again upon return to prison.


Getting on the Electoral Register


Your name must be on a list called the electoral register before you can vote.


If you are unsure whether you are registered, you can contact your local Electoral Registration Office. Staff should be able to help you find the correct details for this – further information about this is provided in the Policy Framework.


If your name is not on the electoral register already you will need to fill in a form and send it to your local Electoral Registration Office. Prison staff should be able to provide you with the voter registration form and the address to send it to.


The deadline to get this to your local Electoral Registration Office is usually 12 working days before an election.


Please note that it is the legal responsibility of the Electoral Registration Officer to decide whether to accept applications to register to vote.


How to vote


If you are eligible to vote and on the electoral register you can apply to vote in one of two ways:

  • By post – this means postal ballot papers will be sent to you at the prison and you will have to complete and return them. They must arrive by 10pm on the day of the election otherwise your vote won't be counted.
  • By proxy – this means someone you choose will be allowed to vote for you. A proxy voter’s poll card will be sent to the person you choose to do this.

If you are eligible because you have been released on HDC or are in the community on ROTL you can vote by postal or proxy from the address you are release to but not from prison. You may also vote by attending a polling station as long as it meets the conditions of your release. 


You will need to complete an application if you want to vote by post or by proxy. You should ask staff for the correct form and for help with completing the form if you need it. The deadline to get this application to your local Electoral Registration Office is usually 11 working days before the election.


Ask your personal officer or another prison officer for the form or for more information about voting. You should also be able to get help if you have difficulty reading or filling in forms.

Prisoners vote and human rights

The European Court of Human Rights has previously ruled against the UK's blanket ban on giving convicted prisoners the vote and called for a change in the law.

We can send you more information about this if you are interested.

Further information

The following may be of interest to you.


Useful PSIs and PSOs (these should be available in the library):

Restrictions on Prisoner Voting Policy Framework



The Prison Rules (1999)

Representation of the People Act (2000)

House of Commons briefing Paper ‘Prisoners’ voting rights: developments since May 2015


For a print-ready version of this information, click here.