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How the elections work

How the elections work

In London, ‘all out’ elections take place every four years. This means that in every London borough, every council seat is up for election on the same day. In the 2014 local elections, there are 1,850 council seats up for election. The City of London operates different electoral arrangements and its next local elections are in March 2017.

On May 22, a second, separate, election is being held. You will also have a vote for your member of the European Parliament (MEP). If you are eligible to vote you will receive two ballot papers at the polling station.


Boroughs are divided up into areas called wards. In each ward, local residents can cast votes for as many council seats as there are being contested, normally in London three. Electors can vote for candidates all from one party, a mix of parties, or independent councillors who are not affiliated with any political party.

In 28 of the 32 boroughs, the leader of the council is normally decided by the political party group with the most council seats. Four London boroughs, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham,  and Tower Hamlets, are governed by an executive mayoral system. This means in addition to voting for their local wards representatives, local residents vote directly for who leads the council.

Find out more about the mayoral elections

Who can vote?

All UK, Commonwealth and European Union citizens, who are aged 18 or over on the day of the election and are living in the area are entitled to vote in the local elections.

Unlike parliamentary elections, people can be registered to vote at more than one address. For example, a university student who lives at home during the holidays and has a term-time address, would be entitled to vote in the local elections at each address.

To vote you must be on the electoral register, the deadline to register for the 2014 local elections was 6 May.

Here's how you register to vote

How do I vote?

People can vote at their local polling station between 7am and 10pm. The location of the polling station will be on the polling card, which will be sent to voters before election day by their council. Electors will need to tell polling staff their name and address in order to vote; the polling card will save time, but it is not essential in order to receive a ballot paper.

If people do not wish to cast their vote at a polling station, they can apply for a postal ballot, which will be sent to their address ahead of the election day. An elector does not need to give any reason why they wish to vote by post. People can also register for a proxy vote, meaning they appoint someone they trust to vote for them. To vote by proxy , there must be a reason, such as illness or being away with work. If someone is suddenly incapacitated or taken ill, they can apply to vote by proxy for medical reasons up until 5pm on polling day.

The deadline to apply for a postal ballot for the 2014 local elections was 7 May. Unless there are medical reasons the deadline to apply for a proxy vote for 2014 local elections was 14 May.

How do I see the results?

The results of all the borough elections are expected by mid-day on Saturday May 24, with many of them being known before that time. The full results for your ward and borough will be available on your local council website. This website will show the results across London. The results of the European elections will be announced late on the evening of Sunday May 25 once polls have closed across Europe.