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Tomorrow, December 12th 2019 sees the culmination of one of the most ugly General Election campaigns in history. From outright lies, to misleading figures, there’s a lot of confusion out there. Even when it comes to actually casting your vote, people seem to be unsure of their rights. Here is some essential information for anyone who wants to exercise their right to vote. Whether you are disabled, a parent or make a mistake, the answers are all here.
You Don’t Need ID
Contrary to popular belief, in England, Wales and Scotland, you are not required to take any form of identification with you in order to vote. in Northern Ireland you must take a valid form of photgrpaic ID such as a driving licence or passport. While there were trials run at the 2017 General Election, there are none running this time round. You don’t need to take anything other than yourself. Not even your polling card you got in the post.
The Pencil Conspiracy
Everytime an election or referendum comes around, the conspiracy theory about why polling stations use pencils comes up. However, there is no grand conspiracy to change your vote, it is done purely for practical reasons, as the Electoral Commission state below;
So if you really aren’t comfortable using a pencil, feel free to take your own pen along.
Accessibility for Parents and Disabled People
If you have kids, you might be wondering if you can take them with you to cast your vote? The answer is simply; yes. You can take them in with you into the polling station and the voting booth for when you mark your ballot. The only condition is that they don’t mark your vote for you.
If you’re disabled or require assistance don’t be put off voting. There are plenty of systems put in place to allow you to participate in the Election.
Each polling station should have a ramp or a separate entrance, so that everyone can access it. If you do experience any problems when getting into your polling station, a member of staff can come to assist you and can bring your ballot paper to you, if you find that helpful.
You should also find a wheelchair accessible polling booth in every polling station.
If you’re nervous about attending, you can learn more about what the polling station will be like before you go reading Mencap’s easy read guide to voting.
Help Marking Your Ballot
If you have a visual impairment and need help to mark your ballot paper, you can ask the polling station staff for a large print sample of the ballot paper to help you.
You can also ask for a special voting device which will help you to mark your ballot paper and vote for who you want to. The staff will explain how it works.
If you have an assistance dog, you can take it into to the polling station with you. All other pets must wait outside. Just search #DogsAtPollingStations on Twitter to see more.
If you Need Help
Someone can help you if you need them to. You can either have a memeber of staff at the polling station assist you, including marking your ballot for you, or you can bring someone along to help (such as a family member, friend or support worker, as long as they are 18 years old or over and eligible to vote in the election themselves. They can only help two people to vote).
If you would like them to, polling station staff will be happy to give you a tour of the polling station, before you cast your vote.
If you need any help on polling day, just ask. The polling station staff are there to help you and always very kind and helpful.
What If I Make a Mistake?
If you make a mistake such as marking the wrong box on your ballot, don’t worry. Just tell a member of staff at the polling station and they will give you a new ballot paper and destroy the other one. The can only do this BEFORE you put your ballot paper in the ballot box.
If you mark more than one box, or deface your ballot paper, it may not count. This decision will be taken by The Local Presiding Officer at the count. Of course, some people intentionally do this to “spoil” their ballot out of protest. If you write anything of a threatening or abusive manner, the Police may or may not chose to investigate.
I’m Sick or Was called Away for Work on Polling Day, Can I Vote?
In certain circumstances, were you have an emergency such as a sudden illness or you are called away for work, that means you can’t vote in person, you can apply for an emergency proxy on the day of the Election up until 5pm.
This must be something that you weren’t aware of before the normal proxy vote deadline.
There are different forms to complete depending on your circumstances;
Have your designated proxy return your form to your local electoral registration office. You can find their details and more information at; yourvotematters.co.uk
The person you wish to appoint as your proxy can only act as proxy if they are 18 or over and they are registered for that election or referendum.
If You’re Queuing at 10pm, STAY, You Can Still Vote
Polling stations tend to get busy close to the polls closing at 10pm. If find yourself still waiting to vote at 10pm on election day, STAY IN LINE. As long as you are in the queue at your designated polling station you must be allowed to cast your ballot. If for any reason you are stopped from doing so, ask to speak to the Presiding Officer immediate and DO NOT leave.
I Forgot to Post My Postal Vote!
If you forgot to post your completed postal vote, that’s ok. Take your sealed ballot to your local polling station and ask to speak to the Presiding Officer in charge. They will allow you to place the ballot in the ballot box.
If you live in Northern Ireland, you need to taker your ballot to Belfast for it to be counted. You can find out from your local Election Officials what to do.
Exit Pollsters and Campaigners Outside Polling Stations
Many polling stations will have party activists and/or exit pollsters outside or in the near vicinity. You DO NOT have to talk to them. It is up to you as to whether you disclose who you voted for. If you feel intimidated in ANY way, let a member of staff know in the polling station as soon as you arrive.
Do not feel pressured to vote a certain way by anyone, including a friend or family member. Your vote is for you, and you alone.
No Pictures Inside The Polling Station
It will happen, but it’s not advisable. Taking a photo of your ballot paper, marked or not, is a criminal offence. They all have serial numbers thus technically your vote could be identified if it is visible in the photo. Also, you never know what’s in the background. You don’t want to unintentionally reveal somebody elses voting choice. Feel free to take pictures outside the polling station if you wish, just don’t do it inside. It’s not worth the risk.
Finally – Exercise Your Right
Hopefully you have found this guide helpful. You DO NOT have to vote, that is your right. However, every vote does matter. By voting you are being part of shaping how the country is run. A General Election decides the government in charge of your taxes, the NHS and the country, for the next Five years. Be a part of shaping how that five years pans out.
Most of all, HAVE FUN.
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