Voting whilst in prison

You can still vote while in prison if you are

  • Unconvicted (also called ‘on remand’)
  • Convicted but not yet sentenced
  • A civil prisoner –someone who is in prison for not paying fines or not doing what the court has told them to do (this is called contempt of court)

Sentenced prisoners are disqualified from voting, other than those described above.


Getting on the Electoral Register


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


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.


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.

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.

However, current and previous governments have refused to make changes since this ruling.  

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):

PSO 4650 Prisoners’ Voting Rights



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.