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If everyone on the voting list for a polling station had been to vote and have been marked off on the list the polling clerks have, would the polling station shut early? Or would it remain open until 10PM even though no one else could come in and vote?

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    Has it ever happened that all registered parties have voted in an area served by one polling station? – WS2 Dec 15 '19 at 11:40
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    The Handbook for polling station staff doesn't appear to envisage the possibility. – Peter Taylor Dec 15 '19 at 17:23
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    For a non-UK example of this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixville_Notch,_New_Hampshire – user3757614 Dec 15 '19 at 18:27
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    Another non-UK example. The current record in Spain is held by a polling station closing 32 seconds after opening. It serves a small village with only 8 well coordinated registered voters. lavanguardia.com/politica/20191110/471497173296/… – Pere Dec 15 '19 at 21:33
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    @kiradotee Having voted in both Spain and the UK, I can say the Spanish system is far more streamlined than the British one. In Spain you walk up to the ballot box, show your ID and, if you're in their list, are allowed to put one sealed envelope in the box. What's in that envelope is up to you, but only approved ballots will be counted. – Diego Sánchez Dec 17 '19 at 11:44
84

There's a process that's meant to be followed if someone arrives at a polling station to find that someone has already voted in their name or they're recorded as having received a postal vote (a 'tendered vote' can be made, although it isn't counted).

If the polling station closed early then this might be made impossible. For this reason it would not make sense to close early.

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    @o.m., the count doesn't happen at the polling station. – Peter Taylor Dec 15 '19 at 17:22
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    @o.m Anyone can apply in advance (at least 3 weeks before the election date) to be a "registered observer" at the count. There is no charge except you have to provide a security pass photo (and proof of your ID). In practice, the attendees will be people who have been canvassing for the candidates, not random members of the general public. It's not exactly an enthralling spectator experience! – alephzero Dec 15 '19 at 20:19
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    Postal votes can also be returned to the polling station until closing time, so unless all those have been received as well, they'd need to stay open. – Chris H Dec 16 '19 at 12:16
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    @o.m. You asked if "citizens" in the UK could observe the count and I answered that question. But the question is irrelevant to the OP's question, since there is no local counting of votes at polling stations in the UK. There is a single count for all the votes in the constituency. The only "count" at the polling station is a record of the number of ballot papers issued during the voting period, which is checked against the number inside the ballot box as the first stage of the (centralized) counting process. – alephzero Dec 16 '19 at 12:36
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    Absentee voters can also arrive at the polling station until closing time. – Marquis of Lorne Dec 17 '19 at 0:57
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Polling hours are set out in Schedule I of the Representation of the People Act, 1983, as "between the hours of 7 in the morning and 10 at night". There is nothing in the Act that allows a polling station to close early if all voters have voted.

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    This is the best answer because it actually refers to the act which governs polling booth hours – Fred Stark Dec 16 '19 at 1:37
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    @FredStark While this does refer to the act which governs the polling booth hours, I believe that the other answer does a better job of explaining why it is important for the hours as defined in the act need to be followed, beyond just "it's the law" – Chronocidal Dec 16 '19 at 12:04
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    @Chronocidal UK postal votes may be taken directly to one's local polling station on the day of the election (rather than posting them in advance). Those voting by post will not be on the list of expected voters at the polling station as they are not 'expected'. Would that be an adequate reason why it is important for the hours to be followed? – rolinger Dec 16 '19 at 13:40
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    I found the Electoral Commission website too, and the handbook for polling stations staff is quite clear. I have deleted my comment. I think this may have changed in the last decade - there was some fuss about people being turned away a few years ago. I would be grateful if you would withdraw the accusation of "just fabricating". – Martin Bonner supports Monica Dec 17 '19 at 17:14
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    cite: electoralcommission.org.uk/get-ready The Electoral Commission says: "Polling stations can get busy, however, especially towards the end of the day, and sometimes there can be a queue. "If you arrive at your polling station and are in a queue waiting to vote at 10pm, you will be able to vote." it says absolutely nothing about being inside and since MANY polling stations have no way to queue easily inside – Mr Heelis Dec 17 '19 at 18:21

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