How to vote – and what to do once you’ve voted

Got an election in your area today? Here are a few key pieces of information for you.

Voting in person

  • Polling stations are open between 7am and 10pm today. No votes can be cast after 10pm; it’s not like the shops where being in the queue at closing time is enough.
  • You don’t need your polling card to vote.
  • You have to vote at your local polling station, which is indicated on the card. If you’ve lost your card and aren’t sure where to vote, you can contact your local council.
  • Make sure you read the instructions on the ballot paper carefully, especially if you are electing a Police and Crime Commissioner as that uses a voting system (the supplementary vote) you may not have used before. (It is also used for directly elected mayors.)
  • EU citizens can vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, but not in the Parliamentary by-elections.

Voting by post

  • Postal ballots can be handed in at polling stations today.
  • Make sure all the paperwork is completed and put inside the (outer) sealed envelope. It is best if you return this to a polling station yourself, but if you can’t make it you can ask someone else you trust to take the sealed envelope to a polling station for you.
  • If you get the paperwork wrong, your postal vote will be invalid. Take extra care over filling in the date field as this is where many mistakes happen.

Other tips

  • If a last minute medical emergency prevents you going to vote, you have until 5pm today to apply for an emergency proxy so that someone else can vote on your behalf. Contact your local council ASAP to arrange this.
  • One point I’ve never heard anyone raise but really, thinking about it, lots of people should ask: it is safe to use the pencils in the voting booths: they are not ordinary pencils, but special indelible pencils – so don’t worry, no-one can erase and alter your vote if use the pencil.

Once you’ve voted…

There’s no better way to encourage someone to vote, and vote Liberal Democrat, than if they see that their friends have also done so. A quick tweet or Facebook update will do the trick:

Finally, though it’s often under-appreciated, days like today are ones that – for all the many disagreements between parties and candidates – we should be proud of.

Thousands of volunteers across the UK are putting in hours from before the crack of dawn until well after dusk in a democracy which, for all its faults, is one of the fairest and freest in the world.

Compared to the US, that comparator so often used by people, our electoral administration – even the bits I often criticise – wipe the floor with them. Just look at how long and how frequent the queues are in the US compared to the UK ,or the number of times machinery used in the US fails compared to the UK, to see that even if UK campaign managers like looking to the US, for electoral administrators it should be the US looking to the UK.

Moreover, the sort of manipulation horrors that far too often occur in many parts of the world are mercifully rare in Britain. We’re a far better and healthier democracy than the many countries where political activists have to risk life and limb in elections which are then rigged. That’s something to cherish.

So good luck, but extra luck if you’re a Liberal Democrat!

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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One Comment

  • On a point of trivia my polling card says “no ballot paper can be issued” after 10 pm which is not quite the same as not being able to vote after 10 pm. Is there any drinking up time, so to speak? Or are the ballot boxes sealed on the dot?

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