The Electoral Commission has revealed that nearly a quarter of the Scottish electorate has opted to cast their vote by post, rather than visit a polling station on May 6.
Provisional figures from Scotland’s Electoral Registration Officers show 1,010,638 voters are now registered to vote by post – the highest number recorded in Scotland.
A surge in postal votes had been expected for the Holyrood elections given concerns about Covid, despite extra public health precautions being put in place, including capping the numbers of voters able to attend individual polling stations, plans for physical distancing and enhanced hygiene, and each voter issued with their own pencil.
Postal voting has been a growing trend in Holyrood elections, rising from 3.6 per cent of the electorate registering in 2003 to 17.7 per cent in 2016.
However, despite it reaching a record high for the May vote, it is far short of the 38 per cent of the electorate which the Electoral Commission had predicted.
Postal voting packs will be issued to those who have registered from tomorrow and must be returned by 10pm on May 6 for the votes to count.
Malcolm Burr, convener of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, said: “We can’t count any votes that come back to us after 10pm on May 6, so if you have a postal vote make sure you send it back in plenty of time. If you do leave it late, then you can drop your completed pack at your local polling place on election day.”
As well as marking their ballot papers, postal voters must also complete and return a statement with their date of birth and signature, which are checked against the information provided when they applied for the postal vote.
Andy O’Neill, head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland, said: “With many people voting by post for the first time this May, it’s really important that they follow the instructions in their postal ballot pack to make sure their vote can count.
"Half of all postal votes rejected at the last UK general election were because the signature or date of birth did not match their application, so extra care needs to be taken when filling in these parts of the postal voting statement.”
Once voters complete their ballot, they should be posted to their local council. The Electoral Commission has stressed that candidates, party workers or campaigners should not handle postal votes.
The vote packs are opened and signatures and dates of birth checked by council election returning officers before polling day, but not counted until after the close of poll on election day.
The Electoral Commission has also said there is still time to apply for a proxy vote where a voter can appoint someone they trust to cast their vote on the day.
The deadline is 5pm on Tuesday, April 27.
Postal packs can also be returned to any polling station within the constituency.