election maps

Useful facts

European parliamentary elections

For the European Parliament the UK is divided into 12 regions. Each region has between 3 and 10 MEPs. Elections take place every five years.

Westminster parliamentary elections

Westminster parliamentary constituencies are the areas used to elect MPs (Members of Parliament) to the House of Commons, which is the primary legislative chamber of the UK and is located in Westminster, London.

Constituency boundaries are determined by the Boundary Commissions (one each for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). General reviews normally lead to large-scale changes, but the commission may also carry out localised interim reviews. These can occur at any time, but usually only lead to minor changes.

Constituencies are generally based on whole or part local authorities unless there is a strong case to straddle boundaries – each case is decided on its merits; constituencies may not, however, split electoral wards/divisions.

Elections are called by the Prime Minister and can take place at any time, as long as one occurs every five years.

Sometimes constituencies are referred to as either borough (burgh in Scotland) or county constituencies. Borough constituencies are predominantly urban whereas county constituencies are partly or mostly rural. Definitions are allocated by the Boundary Commission and affect candidates’ election expenses and also who can be the constituency’s returning officer. If used, the designation is suffixed to the constituency name and is generally abbreviated to BC or CC.

The website www.parliament.uk contains a number of useful facilities, including member (of parliament) and constituency searches by postcode, with details about the MPs, including their websites and contact addresses.

Local authority elections

A ward is an electoral district represented by one or more councillors. It is the primary unit of British administrative and electoral geography.

Scottish unitary authorities, the London boroughs, English metropolitan boroughs and the English non-metropolitan districts (including most unitary authorities) are divided into wards for local elections.

Elections for Welsh unitary authorities and English county councils (including the Isle of Wight Unitary Authority) use the ‘electoral division’ as the geographical unit.

Parish and community wards, which are subdivisions of parishes or communities and used for elections to parish and community councils, also exist. They need not bear any relation to district wards.

Parish council elections

A parish in England is a sub-national entity forming the lowest unit of local government, lower than districts or counties.

Civil parishes vary greatly in size: many cover tiny hamlets with populations of less than 100, whereas some larger parishes cover towns with populations of tens of thousands.

Parishes are usually administered by parish councils, with various local responsibilities.

If a parish has fewer than 200 electors it is usually deemed to be too small to have a parish council and instead will only have a parish meeting. Alternatively, several small parishes can be grouped together and share a common parish council, or even a common parish meeting. Ordnance Survey does not collect the boundaries of these grouped parishes and therefore the Election Maps website is not able to display them.

The role played by parish councils varies. Smaller parish councils have only limited resources and generally play only a minor role, while some larger parish councils have a role similar to that of a small district council.

Parish councils are run by volunteer councillors, who are elected to serve for four years.

Only if there are more candidates standing for election than there are seats on the council will an election be held.

Scottish parliamentary elections

Elections to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood are based on constituencies that were coterminous with the Westminster constituencies up to 2005.

Scotland is also divided into eight electoral regions which, through proportional representation, elect additional Members.

Elections take place every four years.

National Assembly for Wales elections

The Assembly has 60 elected Members (known as AMs). For an Assembly election, which takes place every four years, each registered voter has two votes.

The first vote is for a local constituency Member. A Member is elected for each of the 40 constituencies in Wales by the first-past-the-post system – the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins the seat.

The second vote is to elect a Regional Member. Regional Members are elected by a form of proportional representation known as the ‘additional member system’, and voters vote for a political party. Each party must supply a list of candidates for the additional Member seats in rank order. Wales has five electoral regions, and four Members are elected to serve each region. The electoral regions are based on the European parliamentary constituencies created in 1994.

The Northern Ireland Assembly elections

The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It consists of 108 elected Members – 6 from each of the 18 Westminster constituencies. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive.

It sits at Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast.

According to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, elections should take place every five years on the first Thursday in May.