On 1 May one of the largest and most complex election events held in the UK will take place – the election for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
The London election takes place every four years and is once again being organised and publicised by London Elects – an independent, non-political body.
Here London Elect’s Emma Cassidy explains how the elections are managed and, most importantly, how to ensure you are registered to vote:
The whole project requires a massive collaborative effort. One of the main partners is the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. The boroughs are responsible for the practicalities on the ground – sending out the poll cards and postal votes, setting up and staffing the polling stations and counting the ballot papers. The boroughs are also responsible for holding and updating the electoral register – the list of people who are able to vote.
To vote in the London elections you must live in London, be a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen, be at least 18 years old on 1 May 2008, and be on the electoral register.
There are approximately 5.5 million people currently registered to vote in London. But it is estimated there could be up to 1 million people who are eligible to vote in London but not on the electoral register.
To raise awareness of registration, London Elects, is funding an advertising, PR and field marketing campaign jointly with the Electoral Commission. The campaign is particularly targeting under-registered groups such as students and young people, people who have recently moved house or are renting, new EU citizens and some black and minority ethnic groups.
As part of the public awareness campaign an eye-catching giant pink ballot cross is currently touring London. ‘Mark’ is visiting high streets in every borough encouraging people to register to vote. Londoners need to register, it’s quick and easy to do, and then you’re all set to make your Mark on London.
Londoners have until 16 April 2008 to register to vote and can download a form from the London Elects website or contact their local council.
From mid-April onwards the public awareness campaign will focus on information for voters on when, where and how to vote and what people are voting for. One of the most direct ways people will find out about the election is the Mayoral address booklet, which will be sent to every registered voter.
This booklet will contain the names of all the candidates standing for Mayor and the London Assembly and manifestos from the Mayoral candidates. It will also have all the information Londoners need to know about how to vote.
So what will happen on polling day?
On 1 May polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm. Voters will be given three ballot papers: a pink ballot paper to vote for the Mayor, on which they will have a first and a second choice, a yellow ballot paper to vote for a Constituency Assembly Member to represent their area and a peach-coloured ballot paper to vote for a party or independent candidate as a London-wide Assembly Member.
The ballot papers have been re-designed since the last election in 2004 so that it is clear what voters have to do.
When the polls close it is estimated that there will be more than six million ballot papers to count. Because of the scale of the election and the three different voting systems used to calculate the results, the votes will once again be counted electronically.
Electronic counting or ‘e-counting’ involves scanning the ballot papers and using specially designed software to automatically count the votes on each paper rather than counting them by hand. If a vote is unclear on any ballot paper they will come up for inspection by a council officer. Candidates, agents and election observers will oversee the whole process.
Three count centres will be specially set up for the task and the count will start at 8.30am on Friday 2 May. Each London constituency will be allocated to either Alexandra Palace, Olympia or Excel.
The results of the Consistency Assembly Members will be announced at the count centre by the Constituency Returning Officer. The Mayor and London-wide Assembly Member results will be aggregated centrally and announced by the Greater London Returning Officer in the Chamber, at City Hall, in front of a large audience and the media.
For more information about the election visit www.londonelects.org.uk or call 0800 876 6444.