General elections are usually held 17 days after the dissolution of Parliament. Thursdays are popular general election days. General elections are often held in either spring or autumn.
Each constituency is divided into a number of polling districts, each of which has a polling station. Most polling stations are in public buildings such as schools, town halls or council offices. Voting takes place on election day from 07.00 till 22.00 in each constituency. Voters are sent a polling card in advance. Voting is by secret ballot, and the only people allowed in the polling station are the presiding officer, the polling clerks, the duty police officer, the candidates, their election agents and the voters.
The time between general elections is 5 years. There were 8 years between elections at the time of the First World War and 10 years at the time of the Second World War. About the month before the election the Prime Minister meets a small group of close advisers to discuss the date which would best suit the party. The date is announced to the Cabinet. The Prime Minister formally asks the Sovereign to dissolve Parliament.
The United Kingdom is divided into areas which are known as constituencies. You live in a constituency and will register to vote there. You have one vote which you cast for the person who you wish to represent you in Parliament. Through this you also vote for the party which you wish to be in Government. There are 659 constituencies in the United Kingdom.
What is the general election? A general election is when the electors in the country cast their vote for the candidate from the political party of their choice to be the Member of Parliament for the constituency. The political party which wins the most seats in the House of Commons forms the Government. This is different from a by-election which occurs when a Member dies, retires or is disqualified, and voting takes place only in the constituency without a Member, not throughout the country.
Fair and free elections are an essential part of democracy, allowing the majority of citizens to determine how they want the country to be governed.