Here is the 2nd part of some genuine election queries I’ve heard and tried to answer but this time all associated with voting itself.
Q: What do I do to vote?
A: Walk into your local designated polling station, tell the staff who you are and present your polling card (if you have it). The officer will then cross out your name on the electoral roll and then issue you with two marked ballot papers (or three if you live in an area with parish elections). Then go into a private booth.
Q: Then what?
A: Mark the ballot papers by putting a cross against your preferred candidate(s). For Old Dean local election, you can make up to 2 crosses on the ballot paper but only one on the parliamentary paper.
Q: What happens if I make a mistake or mark the paper and then change my mind?
A: You can cross out and remark as long as your voting intention is clear. If not, go back to the officer and say you have made a mistake, and would like a new paper. Do not put your mistaken ballot paper in the box or you will not be issued with a new one but give it to them and they will dispose. Under no circumstances should you sign and initial any changes as this will invalidate your vote (which has to be secret)
Q: What if I don’t know who to vote for – can I ask the officers for any advice?
A: No – the poll clerks can only answer questions relating to the process. They cannot tell you any further information other than that contained on the ballot papers or in the booths. For example, they cannot tell you which candidates are in the same party as David Cameron or Ed Miliband.
Q: Does it have to be a cross?
A: No although this is strongly encouraged. It has to be a clear mark so for example a tick would be acceptable whereas a smiley face has been argued. It does have to be clearly within the candidate section so for example if someone put a large cross covering their paper, this would be classed as spoilt rather than a vote for a middle candidate.
Q: What if I want to deliberately spoil my vote because I don’t like any of the candidates?
A: A ballot paper can be spoilt if it is left blank, voted for too many candidates, has no official mark or is void due to uncertainty. All spoilt papers are put to one side at the count and then the returning officer will look at each one with the candidate agents and adjudicate. Any ballot paper which is signed or has other writing that could identify the voter is also invalid. Don’t bother using your ballot paper to complain about Council services as these will just be ignored. (it has been known!)
Q: When will we know the results?
A: Around 5am on Friday morning for Surrey Heath parliamentary. The local election count starts at 1pm on Friday and should be known by 5pm/6pm.
Q: Who are the people who hang about outside the polling station and what do they do?
A: Called party tellers and have no official status. Their job is to try and find out who has voted so they can remind their supporters later in the day. You are under no legal obligation to tell them your voter number but if you don’t, you may get a knock on your door later on from various party activists which would be a waste of time all round. They are only interested in your elector number (on your card) and not who you may be voting for. They should work together regardless of the colour of their rosette so tell any of them.
Q: What if I need help due to disability or visual impairment?
A: The officers in the polling station will offer practical assistance to ensure that you can vote and make every effort to ensure this is done privately. If you need help in the polling booth, officers can give this as a last resort but are legally compelled to keep your vote confidential.
Q: I have a postal vote but haven’t got round to posting it. Can I vote at the polling station instead?
A: No – if you turn up, you will not be given another vote. However, you can drop off your postal vote at a polling station in Surrey Heath.
If you are ill on the day, you can get an emergency proxy vote up until 5pm on voting day.