- What type of elections can I vote in?
- If I am registered, do I have to vote?
- Why should I vote?
- Is it easy to vote?
- Is there anyone who can help me when I want to vote?
- Is my vote secret?
- If my vote is secret, why does the Poll Clerk write my elector number on the counterfoil?
- What happens if I am unable to vote in person?
- Where are the votes counted?
- Where is my polling station?
- How do I find out about candidates standing for election?
What type of elections can I vote in?
What types of elections can I vote in?
Elections are contested by candidates representing registered political parties (as getting people to vote for you takes a lot of organisation, which parties provide). Individuals sometimes stand for election as independents, unsupported by a registered political party.
There are three levels of democratic representation in Britain. These are:
Local government (council) elections
Walsall Borough is divided into 20 wards, each represented by 3 councillors. There is an election of one councillor in each of the wards generally in May each year. The 3 councillors each come up for election in turn. As councils are normally elected every 4 years, this approach of electing a third each year means there is no council election in the fourth year (2013, 2017. 2021)
Parliamentary (Westminster) elections
Members of Parliament (MPs) are voted into the House of Commons at a parliamentary general election. These elections have to take place within 5 years of the last election. The next general parliamentary election is scheduled for May 2015. There are three MPs representing constituencies in Walsall, please see our MPs and MEPs page.
European Parliamentary elections
Elections to the European Parliament are held every five years. The UK elects members to the European parliament on a regional basis. For more information on the European parliament and its members please view the UK Office of the European Parliament website. The next election will be May 2014.
A by-election can be held if a councillor or MP dies or resigns.
If I am registered, do I have to vote?
No. There is no legal requirement for anybody to vote, and no legal penalty for not voting. So it is up to you, although we hope that most electors will choose to vote at every opportunity.
Why should I vote?
Whether we like it or not, politics affects just about everything we do at some point or other and certainly how much money you have left to spend.
The decisions made by our elected representatives affect everybody’s daily lives and long-term futures, whether they are local councillors, Members of Parliament or Members of the European Parliament.
Some elections are won or lost by the narrowest of margins. The votes of just a few people (or sometimes even one!) can decide who becomes elected, who can form governments, and how people's lives will be affected in important ways.
By not voting you actually allow more influence to be exercised by those who do vote. If only 20% turn out to vote that effectively means that 1 person in ten voters is having most influence on who the decision makers will be and hence on our lives.
While many people vote for the parties / people who lose at an election, the weight of the "opposition" can sometimes "moderate" the elected bodies policies.
Is it easy to vote?
Yes. You either vote at home using your postal ballot paper (then post it or hand deliver it back to the Returning Officer), or you go to your local polling station to cast your vote, or if you have appointed a proxy, they will vote on your behalf.
If you have not chosen to vote using a postal ballot paper, then a couple of weeks before an election a poll card will be delivered to you at your home. It will tell you when you should vote and the location of your polling station. Most polling stations are within walking distance, and are open from 7am to 10pm.
Once you are in the polling station, voting is easy. The polling staff will hand you your voting papers, after checking you are on the register. You then go behind a screen to mark your voting paper, in private, with a cross against the name(s) of the candidates you want to vote for. You then fold your voting paper in two and drop into the ballot box where it will remain until opened ready for counting later.
If you have any difficulty understanding what you should do, just ask one of the polling staff for guidance.
On your way out of the polling station, people working for the candidates may ask you for your poll card number (known as tellers). This helps them work out who has and who hasn't voted. They are not allowed to ask you how you have voted or influence you on your way in to vote. You are not obliged to give them your poll card or any information if you don't want to.
You do not need to take your poll card, or any proof of identity, in order to vote. Just go to your polling station during polling hours. The poll card simply tells you the date of the election and where you should go to vote.
Is there anyone who can help me when I want to vote?
Yes. If you have a physical disability (including blindness) or can't read, you can either bring a companion with you or ask the Presiding Officer in the polling station to help. Alternatively, for blind or partially-sighted voters, a device is available in every polling station to allow you to mark your ballot paper without assistance.
A copy of the ballot paper, in large print, is hung on the wall of the polling station and one may even be taken into the polling booth to help people with a sight disability. There is also a tactile template for people with sight disability, which allows the voter to make their own mark on the ballot paper.
Is my vote secret?
Yes. The ballot you have cast is secret, although the fact that you have voted is not.
The voting booths at the polling station are designed to make sure that only you know which candidate you have voted for. Once you have marked your ballot paper you should fold it in two, and then put it into the ballot box without showing anybody how you have voted.
The ballot box is sealed by the Presiding Officer at the start of polling day. It central slot is sealed at the end of polling and will not be opened until the start of the count.
Candidates and/or political parties can ask for copies of the “marked” register, as they want to know who has voted. This allows them to canvass their supporters to get out and vote. There is however, no way they can know who has voted for whom.
If my vote is secret, why does the Poll Clerk write my elector number on the counterfoil?
The Poll Clerk writes your elector number on the list of the ballot papers to protect your vote. Imagine if someone came into your polling station before you and said that they were you. They would be given a ballot paper, vote on it and put it into the ballot box. How would you feel when you came to the polling station later and asked for your ballot paper, to be told that you had already voted!
The number helps us to ensure that any fraudulent voting can be discovered and discounted but it is only used if a fraudulent vote is suspected.
It is true, that technically it is possible to match up the elector number on the ballot paper with the list (called a Corresponding Number List). However, at the close of polling, the list is sealed in a separate packet from that of the actual ballot papers and only a court can open them.
All documents are also physically destroyed (by shredding) after 12 months.
In addition there is a very strong history and tradition of secrecy of the ballot in the UK and of the integrity of those who are responsible to organise and administer the whole election process.
No one should be the slightest concerned that how they have voted is anything but secret, unless they have fraudulently cast a vote.
What happens if I am unable to vote in person?
If you think you will be unable to get to the polling station on the day of the election, you can apply to vote by post or appoint a proxy (that is, someone to vote for you on your behalf). Please view postal and proxy voting
Where are the votes counted?
Most election counts in Walsall are held at Sports Centre on the Wasall campus of the University of Wolverhampton, off Broadway. Access to the counting of votes is restricted. Election results are published on this website, outside the Council House and at the place of counting.
Where is my polling station?
Your polling station details are printed on your poll card, which is delivered to you just before the election. If you have chosen to vote using a postal ballot paper, then you will also receive a poll card, just to advise you of this fact.
The list of polling stations used at the last election can be found under the “Polling stations” heading on the front page.
How do I find out about candidates standing for election?
At election times, a list of candidates is published in the main local newspapers and on this website soon after nominations for candidates close.
Political parties or candidates may send you information at home in the run-up to election day and there may be some details in the local newspapers.
The Electoral Registration Office
Telephone 01922 652030
Fax 01922 652040