Local elections: How to vote

Millions of people all over the UK are voting today in the local elections, which are taking place across hundreds of local councils.

In Essex, elections are taking place in Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Colchester, Epping Forest and Rochford, as well as in Southend-On-Sea and Thurrock unitary councils, with polls open until 10pm today.

You can vote today if you are a British citizen, or from an EU or Commonwealth country and are resident in the UK. However, you need to be 18 or older and have already registered to vote.

Voting may seem confusing for many, but it’s actually very quick and easy. Here’s a guide to how you can make your voice heard today.

Where do I need to go?

First, you will need to go to a polling station to cast your vote.

If you’re registered to vote, you will have received a polling card, which will tell you the location of your nearest polling station.

You can also find a list of all the polling stations in the councils up for election today here: Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Colchester, Epping Forest, Harlow and Rochford.

You can also contact your local authority’s election office.

You don’t need to vote in person if you have a postal vote or are voting by proxy. However, postal votes will need to have been received by polling stations by 10pm today, and the deadline to apply for a postal vote for this year has already passed.

What do I do when I’m there?

At the polling station, you will be given a ballot paper with a list of candidates on it.

Friends can come with you to the polling station, but only you will be allowed to go into the booth, where you will mark your ballot.

Read the instructions, then clearly mark an X in the box next to the name of the candidate you want to vote for.

Ballot papers with more than one X or that are marked in any other way, for example writing a message on the paper, do not count. These are called “spoilt” ballots. If you make a mistake, you can ask for a new ballot paper.

Once you have made your choice, put your marked ballot paper in the ballot box. A member of staff will show you where it is if you can’t see it and help you if you have problems.

Do I need to bring anything?

You can bring a pen or pencil if you like, although there will be pencils provided. But you do NOT need to bring your polling card or ID.

Can I take a selfie?

It is strongly advised by the Electoral Commission not to take photographs when you vote, because it risks accidentally giving away how someone else has voted, which is illegal. You could be fined £5,000 or even get sent to prison for six months.

Sharing a photo of a ballot paper, even your own, is illegal under Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

However, you can take selfies outside polling stations and share them online or with friends.

What if I’m at work?

Polls are open today from 7am-10pm, so you can vote at any point during this period. 

This means you can head down after work. However, polling stations are likely to be at their busiest during these times.

When will I know the results?

Counts in Essex will start when voting closes, at 10pm today. Ballot boxes will need to be driven to the site of the count, and counting will go on well into the night.

Results, and the new political makeup of the authorities, are expected to be announced overnight, and for some councils the announcement will come tomorrow, Friday May 6.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter