Election Day (United Kingdom)

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Election Day in the United Kingdom is by tradition a Thursday. Polls in the United Kingdom open at 7:00 and close at 22:00.

General elections[edit]

It has been suggested that this tradition arose as the best of several circumstances: Friday pay-packets would lead to more drunken voters on Fridays and weekends; having the election as far after a Sunday as possible would reduce the influence of Sunday sermons[citation needed]; many towns held markets on Thursdays, thus the local population would be travelling to town that day anyway.

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, all future General Elections shall take place on the first Thursday in May every five years, barring special circumstances.

Before the Fixed Terms Parliament Act 2011, a General Election in the UK would follow the dissolution of Parliament by the Monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day. The Prime Minister thus had the power to choose the date of the election. Now, the decision is taken by two-thirds majority of the House of Commons, or is legally determined through the act as the first Thursday in May every 5 years. Thursday has been the customary day to hold elections since the 1930s.[1] The Levellers proposed that elections be held on the first Thursday in every second March in The Agreement of the People in 1647.[2]

Historically, elections took place over the course of a four-week period until 1918. Election days were then as follows:

and elections have been on Thursdays since then:

Other elections[edit]

Local elections in England and Wales are by statute held on the first Thursday in May. This has been changed in recent years: in 2001 they were delayed while an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was dealt with and in 2020 they were postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[3] In 2004, 2009 & 2014 local elections were delayed in order to allow the elections to be held simultaneously with the European Parliament. However the elections were separate in 2019. In all cases, the elections were held on Thursdays.

By-elections and other UK elections are also traditionally held on Thursdays though they can be held on other days – in particular when they would otherwise clash with bank holidays. The last Parliamentary by-election not to be held on a Thursday was the Hamilton by-election of 31 May 1978. This was held on a Wednesday as the returning officer wished to avoid a clash with the opening game of the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Today, council by-elections are still occasionally held on days other than Thursday.

From 1997 to 2015, general elections occurred on the same days as the annual scheduled local government elections; however, this ended in 2017 with the local elections on 4 May and the general election on 8 June.

See also[edit]

  • Election day – most other European countries hold elections on Sundays.


  1. ^ White, Isobel (22 September 2009). "Timing of Parliamentary election counts". House of Commons Library. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  2. ^ An Agreement of the People for a firm and present peace upon grounds of common right October 1647
  3. ^ "Coronavirus: English local elections postponed for a year". BBC News. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 22 October 2021.