Voting in the local elections: everything you need to know

In May, should things with coronavirus go to plan, the local elections will be taking place across the country, giving many people either a first chance to vote, send a message, or do what they think is best for their local community. However, voting isn’t as simple as just turning up at ticking a box. There are things you need to know and do in advance.

Register to vote

In order to vote in any UK election, you need to be registered to vote. You’ll need your national insurance number and your address, but it’s quite straight forwards other than that.

In order to vote in a local election, you’ll need to be registered, over 18, and be a British, EU or Commonwealth citizen. You may also be able to vote in more than one place, depending on your circumstances. Students, for example, are able to vote at home and at their university, but they do need to be registered in both places. It is important to remember that this only applies to local elections, in referenda or general elections, you can only vote once.

Who to vote for

It helps to consider why you are voting. People tend to have lots of different motivations for voting in a local election, and it differs between people.

While local election votes don’t impact the makeup of Parliament, the results are still said to send a message. In 2018, then-Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn shared that “People across England will have the chance to send an unmistakable message to this government that enough is enough” through their vote in the local election. Sure, there is no immediate impact from the local elections upon the government, but a bad result for the ruling party sends a message that the people are unhappy. More than that, it makes quite good propaganda for opposition parties when the next election comes around.

The other thing to consider is what can be done for your local community. Local elections aren’t like general elections where it’ll almost be one of three parties winning your seat, independent candidates and groups you may never have heard of stand much more of a chance in local elections than general elections. Therefore, there may be someone who more accurately reflects your own vision for your local community. It is also helpful to note that the policies of a party in the local election are not necessarily the same as in the general election- keep an eye on any local hustings events to get your chance to quiz your candidates. Equally, there may be a particular cause you focus on. In that case, there may be a party representing that cause, or maybe a candidate with a good record.

You can find out what exactly is up for election in your ward here and then learn more about candidates by reading any material posted to you, using the internet to research candidates, and attending hustings.

How to vote

You can either vote in person, by proxy, or by post. When you register, you can choose which option suits you, or if you are already registered and would like to change your decision, you can do so here. However, you can only vote by proxy if you have a specific reason like being away on polling day or having a disability that stops you from being able to vote in person.

With a proxy vote, someone else votes on your behalf so you will need to inform them of your decision. With a postal vote, you will receive your ballot early and will need to fill it out and then post it. To vote in person, you will see where your polling station is on your poll card when that arrives, then you just need to make it there on the right day and vote.

The election is due to happen on the 6th of May.

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