If you’re planning to vote for the first time on Thursday (6th May), you may be unsure of what to expect – perhaps because this is the first election since you reached 18 or you have chosen not to vote in previous elections.
The people you can elect on 6th May will control things like Schools, Youth Services, Housing, permitting events and Festivals and how much you and your family have to pay in Council Tax
You can find all the information you need on the upcoming elections, including on the candidates standing in your area, at Island Echo’s brand new online election platform, isleofwight.vote.
We are going to assume that you have registered to vote – if not, unfortunately, it is too late for these elections, but make sure you register in time for the next elections. Sometimes they can happen at short notice and once you have registered you don’t have to do it ever again.
Your Polling Card
If you are registered to vote you should have received a Polling Card. It’s a large postcard from the Council which tells you about the election and details of where you need to go to vote.
If you can’t find your card don’t worry. You don’t need it to vote. Just turn up at the polling station. All you need to do when you arrive at the polling station is to give your name and address. The person you speak to will check you are on the official list of electors, which they will have in front of them, and, if so, you will be able to vote. If you do take your polling card it might just be slightly quicker to do this.
You do not need to take any formal ID with you.
Where to Vote
The polling card will tell you where you need to go to vote. This is called the Polling Station. It will probably be your local Town or Village Hall or Community Centre.
If you can’t find your card just go to isleofwight.vote and enter your postcode and it will tell you what ward you reside in, you can then use this information to find out more about the candidates in your area, and where your polling station is, at isleofwight.vote.
All Polling Stations have to be fully accessible so if you have any access issues this should not affect your ability to vote at the Polling Station.
All Polling Stations are open from 07:00 in the morning until 22:00 at night. There may be a queue but it is unlikely. If you are in a queue at the Polling Station at 22:00 don’t worry. Provided you joined the queue before 22:00 you will be allowed to vote.
Because of Covid regulations, you should take a face mask and your own pen or pencil. Again don’t worry if you forget. Every polling station will have spare masks and pencils.
At the Polling Station
When you enter the Polling Station you will go to a table manned by the election staff. Give them your name and address (or your polling card, if you have brought it). They will cross your name off a list and stamp your ballot card, which they will then give to you. You will be directed towards one of the voting booths.
The ballot paper will list all the candidates who are standing in the election in alphabetical order. Depending on where you live you will either be given two or three papers. Everywhere on the Island is having an election for their local Isle of Wight Councillor and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
In some areas, you will also be voting for your local town or parish council members.
How to Make Your Vote
There will be a notice telling you how to mark your ballot paper, and instructions on the ballot paper itself. For the Isle of Wight Council and the PCC papers you should choose a single candidate.
For Town and Parish Councils you may be able to select several candidates, for example there might be ten candidates standing for 6 places. In this case you can choose candidates up to the number of places available. The information in the polling station and on the ballot paper will tell you how many candidates you can vote for. You can vote for as many or as few as you like provided you do not exceed this number.
Mark your ballot paper with an X against the name of the candidate(s) you want to vote for.
Do not mark the paper in any other way or write anything else on the paper. If you do or your choice is unclear your vote might be rejected later when the counting takes place.
Don’t worry if you make a mistake. As long as you have not put your paper in the ballot box you can just explain to a member of staff what you have done and they will issue you with a new ballot paper.
Remember that the staff are there to assist you in every way they can.
Once you have marked your ballot papers you should fold them and place them in the Ballot Box, which is a large sealed metal or plastic container with a slot in the top. Make sure you put the right paper in the right box (Isle of Wight Council election, PCC election and Town or Parish Council). They will be clearly marked but again you can ask the staff if you are not sure.
Contrary to what is sometimes said, you can take photographs inside the polling station but you must not do anything, whether by taking a photo or otherwise, that reveals how someone else voted. To do so is illegal. Everyone is entitled to vote confidentially.
Outside the Polling Station
There may well be people standing around outside the polling station. These might be the candidates or representatives of the political parties called tellers. You have no obligation to speak to them.
The tellers may ask you for your candidate number. This is because they are trying to gauge how many people have voted and how many people they still need to encourage to go out and vote.
If in doubt then say nothing. If you feel you are asked anything inappropriate or you have concerns about any of these people or what they are doing tell the staff inside the polling station.
Counting the Votes
Because of the pandemic this will take place the day after the election. All the ballot boxes will be taken to Medina Leisure Centre after 22:00 on polling day where they will be guarded until the boxes are opened in the morning and the counting commences.
Lastly, remember that this election will be a bit odd for everyone as we have to be aware of social distancing and measures in place because of the pandemic. It will feel unusual for you anyway if you haven’t voted before, but even people who have voted or been involved in elections for many years will find things different.
Social distancing might increase the likelihood of queues and for some, this may be the first social interaction they have been involved in for some time. Just remember to follow the rules, respect everyone’s space and privacy, and all will go well.
Find out who is standing for councillor in your area by visiting www.isleofwight.vote – the Island’s new hub for all things related to Local and General Elections, brought to you by Island Echo.