With only two weeks to go until Election Day, voters in South Tyneside are being reassured of the measures in place to help keep them safe.
Voters across South Tyneside are set to go to the polls on Thursday 6 May to elect local government councillors to represent them on South Tyneside Council and the Northumbria Police Area with seats across all 18 wards and the Commissioner's seat on the Northumbria Police Force being contested.
The Council has put a series of safety measures in place across the Borough's 80 polling stations to support people who are voting in person, to do so safely.
This includes protective screens between staff and voters, hand sanitising stations, enhanced signage as well as floor markings and marshals directing people along one-way systems and through separate entrances and exits where possible.
Voters are urged to wear a face covering (unless exempt), bring their own pen to mark the ballot paper, clean their hands when entering and leaving the polling station and keeping a safe distance from others.
John Rumney, South Tyneside's Returning Officer, said: "Putting a cross in a box may seem simple, but there are a number of things voters need to consider in order to be ready for the election.
"While many people will have voted before and will be familiar with the process, things may feel a little different this year due to measures we have put in place to keep people safe. There will also be some first-time voters, particularly among young people, who will be unsure about what to do.
"Every single vote counts therefore we want everyone to feel comfortable, confident and protected in exercising their right to vote and having their say. It is important they know polling stations are safe places to vote.
"We would encourage people to check the information on their poll card, as their polling station may have changed since the last election, and to consider the guidance available about the voting process so they know what to do on the day. Voters do not need to bring their polling cards but having them will help to make the process quicker and more efficient."
Polling stations will be open from 7am until 10pm on Thursday 6 May. Voters who have opted to vote by post must return their postal ballot pack by 10pm. They can hand it in at their polling station if they don't have time to return it by post.
People should not attend the polling station if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or if they have been asked to self-isolate. Anyone who develops symptoms or is asked to self-isolate shortly before polling day has up to 5pm on polling day to apply for an emergency proxy vote. This allows them to nominate someone they trust to vote on their behalf.
Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and guidance at the Electoral Commission, said: "If you are voting in person, make sure you remember to bring your face covering and pen or pencil with you. At the polling station, help keep yourself and others safe by following the safety measures, including sanitising your hands and keeping a safe distance from others.
"If you are self-isolating or become unwell as a result of Covid-19, you don't need to lose your vote. You will be able to apply for an emergency proxy vote so that someone you trust can vote on your behalf."
A short film showing the measures put in place to help keep voters safe at polling stations is available to view on the Council's website at www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/38316 Another video shows how to complete a postal vote.
For more information about elections in South Tyneside, including a list of candidates in the Local Government and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections on 6 May, visit South Tyneside Council's website at www.southtyneside.gov.uk/elections
Alternatively, call South Tyneside Council's Elections Team on (0191) 424 7230.
Further details about the voting process is available at www.yourvotematters.co.uk