Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondIn the UK something amazing happens every five years. We hold a general election. On this one day every eligible person in the UK can place a vote and be part of electing their local representative to Parliament. Parties and candidates campaign to win votes by visiting constituents door-to-door, holding debates, and publishing manifestos - a bit like a shopping list of what they plan to do if they're voted in. But how does the election work? The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, each of which is represented by one Member of Parliament. Voters register for a polling card to make sure they can take part. On election day, polling stations are open from dawn till dusk.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 secondsAnd if a voter can't make it along, there are other ways to make sure they can take part. Once every vote has been placed, the ballots are counted to find out which candidate has come out on top in each area. This is called first past the post. The elected MPs enter Parliament to sit in the House of Commons and represent everyone in their constituency. The political party with the most MPs - the majority - is invited by the Queen to form a government. And if there's a hung Parliament, where there's no clear winner, then a minority government or a coalition government may be created, or a fresh election held.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 secondsSo on this one day, a little piece of paper with your mark plays a big role in deciding who leads our country.

Get involved: voting in a general election

In the final steps of this course we will look at some other opportunities for the public to input and have their say in the work of Parliament.

Voting in a general election

This short video explains how a general election works in nearly 60 Seconds, using the first-past-the-post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Voting is your chance to have a say in who makes decisions and how you think the UK should be run.

You can register to vote if you are:

  • 16 years old or over (but you cannot vote until you are 18 years old)
  • A British citizen
  • An Irish, Commonwealth or European Union citizen who is resident in the UK.

How would you like to see voting evolve in the future?

Would you lower the voting age?
Use new technologies for online voting?
Or make it easier for people to vote, perhaps with weekend voting or voting at any polling station?

What would you do?

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to the UK Parliament: People, Processes and Public Participation

Houses of Parliament

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: