With just over a week to go before the UK decides whether to apt the Alternative Vote system for electing MPs to the Westminster Parliament London Elects, the body overseeing the capital’s votes in the referendum, has issued advice to the capital’s voters about what to expect from the UK’s first national referendum since 1975.
In addition to the FAQ published below, voters with questions about where and how to cast their vote can contact the Electoral Commission helpline on 0800 3 280 280 or visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
Barry Quirk, the London Regional Counting Officer, said: “We want to make sure every Londoner who wants to have their say in this referendum, can. If you are voting by post, make sure you’ve posted it off in time – you can always bring it to the polling station if you forget to post it. If you are voting in person, make sure you get to the polling station in time!”
Q. When is the referendum?
Thursday 5 May 2011. Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. If you don’t have a ballot paper by 10pm, you won’t be able to vote, so make sure you get there in plenty of time
Q. What is the referendum all about?
The referendum asks voters what voting system should be used to elect MPs to Parliament.
You are given a choice between the current system of first past the post and a new system called the alternative vote.
Essentially, with the current system you mark one cross against the person you want to win. With alternative vote, you rank the candidates in order of your preference… 1, 2, 3 etc.
The Electoral Commission have created an animated video to help you understand the two systems – go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk and watch Victor the Vote Counter explain it all!
Q. What is the question?
“At present, the UK uses the ’first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?”
You’ll be given two options for your answer… YES or NO.
If you want to keep the current ‘first past the post system’ then put a cross in the NO box.
If you want to change to the ‘alternative vote’ system then put a cross in the YES box.
Q. Why should I vote?
This is about how we elect those people that represent us in Parliament and affect our day to day lives. Turn up on 5 May and have your say.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel you know much yet – the campaigns for and against a change are now in full swing and you still have until 5 May to make a decision.
Q. What is first past the post?
The current system is ‘first past the post’ and you vote once for the person you want to win.
Q. What is the alternative vote?
This is a voting system where you can rank the candidates in order of preference.
Q. Which is fairer?
The Electoral Commission has chosen a lead campaign group for each side of the debate. They are ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ and ‘No to AV’. They will be able to provide their arguments in support of either side.
Q. How to vote?
You can either vote in your polling station, by post or by a proxy. If you have registered to vote by post, you should have received your ballot paper through the post and should return this as soon as possible.
If you are voting at your polling station, you should receive a poll card through your door which will show you where your polling station is.
Q. Where can I find more information?
To give you more information and help you understand how to take part in a referendum, in the first couple of weeks of April, every household should have received a booklet through the door from the Electoral Commission. If you haven’t received one, you can download one from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk or call 0800 3 280 280.
Polling station staff must remain independent so won’t be able to give you any information about the voting systems once you get to the polling station.
Q. How is the referendum counted?
The referendum count will start at 4pm on Friday 6 May. It is counted on a local level and then the results are initially collated at a regional level.
For London, the Regional Counting Officer is Barry Quirk and he will be based at City Hall, Queens Walk. The 12 Regional Counting Officers then pass their regional results to the Chief Counting Officer who will announce the final UK result.