Casual Vacancies / By-Elections

Occasionally a seat may become vacant and need to be filled if an MP, MEP or Councillor dies whilst in office, resigns or is no longer able to carry out their duties.



If a seat becomes vacant on a Parish or Town Council, the clerk is required to give public notice of the vacancy.  In order to trigger an election, ten or more electors for the electoral area need to submit a request, in writing, and within fourteen working days of the date of the notice.  The request or requests must be sent to the Proper Officer of the District Council.  If sufficicent requests are received the Returning Officer will fix the date of the election which must be within sixty days of the date of the notice of vacancy.  If sufficient requests have not been received by the due date, the Councils is allowed to make their own arrangements to fill the vacancy by co-option.



If a seat becomes vacant on the District or County Council, the appropriate local authority is required to give public notice.  The Returning Officer will fix the date of the election as follows:-

  • in a case in which the High Court or the Council have declared the office to be vacant, within 35 computed days from the date of the declaration; and
  • in any other case, within 35 computed days of a written request for an election to be held.  The request must be given to the Proper Officer of the authority, by two local government electors for the area.

If a vacancy arises within six months of the date on which that councillor's term of office expires, the election will take place at the next ordinary election.  The only exception to this six month rule is where the total number of unfilled vacancies on the Council exceeds one third of the total membership of the Council.



If a seat became vacant in the UK Parliament the Speaker of the Commons would issue a warrant, which would be followed by the issue of an election writ.  During a parliamentary session the warrant is issued following a motion in the House of Commons.  If a vacancy occurred after a new parliament (straight after a general election) the warrant would not be issued until the time for bringing an election petition had passed.  If a writ is pending the warrant will not be issued until the petition has been heard.



MEPs are elected by a system of proportional representation.  At normal European elections registered political parties have to submit a list of their candidates.  When the votes are counted, seats are allocated proportionally and party candidates are awarded seats in the order in which they appear on the party list.  Therefore, if a vacancy occured in a seat held by a member of a political party, the Returning Officer for the electoral region would consult the party's list of candidates and the person whose name appears highest on that list would be appointed to fill the vacancy.

A by-election would only be held if a vacancy occurred in a seat held by an independent individual candidate or, in the case of a political party, where the next person on that party's list was not willing or qualified to be elected, to the extent that the list is exhausted.