With only days to go, voters in South Tyneside are encouraged to make sure they are ready to cast their votes on Election Day.
South Tyneside residents will 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.
People are urged to complete and return their postal ballots as soon as possible. Those who have not had time to post it before polling day, can still hand it in at any polling station in South Tyneside. Postal votes that arrive after 10pm on 6 May will not be counted.
The Borough's 80 polling stations will be safe places to vote. People voting in person are encouraged to keep themselves and others safe by wearing a face covering (unless exempt), bringing their own pen or pencil, cleaning their hands while entering and leaving the polling station and keeping a safe distance from others.
Voters 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.
John Rumney, South Tyneside Council's Returning Officer, said: "Voters' polling cards tell them where to find their polling stations. It is important they check the information as their polling station may have changed since the last elections.
"Voters do not need to bring their poll card to vote but having it will help to make the process quicker and more efficient. Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 6 May. Voters who have opted to vote by post must return their postal ballot pack by 10pm. However, they can hand it in at their local polling station if they don't have time to return it by post.
"We would encourage people to consider the information and guidance available about the voting process beforehand, so they know what to do on the day."
What voters need to know before Election Day:-
-You must wear a face mask while you are in the polling station, unless you are exempt;
-Wash your hands before leaving home and use the hand sanitiser provided as you enter and leave the station;
-Keep your distance, follow the guidance on display in the station and any directions issued by the polling station staff;
-Take your own pen or pencil or use one of the clean pencils available at the station.
- Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 6 May. (Voters had to have applied to register to vote by 19 April in order to be able to vote on the day.)
- Polling cards have been sent to the addresses of registered voters. The cards give details of the location of their polling station. Voters can only vote at the polling station on their own poll card;
- Plan when to cast your vote and leave plenty of time before the 10pm deadline. COVID-19 safety measures could mean there will be queues at the polling stations. If you are in the queue at 10pm you will still be able to vote, however those who arrive at their polling station after 10pm will miss their chance to take part.
- Make sure postal votes are returned by 10pm on Thursday 6 May;
- Those who have not had time to post it before polling day, can hand it in at any polling station in South Tyneside. Postal votes that arrive after 10pm on 6 May will not be counted.
- If you have appointed a proxy, then they need to make sure they are able to vote at your polling station on your behalf;
- If you suddenly become unable to vote in person, due to a medical emergency (including having to self-isolate due to COVID-19) or because your occupation, service or employment means you cannot go to the polling station, and you only become aware of that fact after the deadline, then you may be entitled to appoint an emergency proxy;
- You can apply for an emergency proxy up until 5pm on polling day. Contact South Tyneside Council's Elections Team direct about this, on (0191) 424 7230.
- Your face mask;
- A pen or pencil, although clean pencils will be available at the station;
- You can take the poll card with you to show polling station staff when you arrive. They will still ask for you to confirm your name and address. The staff will not take your card from you. Please take it home and dispose of it securely. If you don't have your poll card with you, just tell the polling station staff your name and your address and they can check whether you are on the electoral register.
- Social media is a great way to let your friends and family know you have voted and to encourage them to do the same. Use Twitter, Facebook and any other social media accounts to help get the message out there;
- Remember, pictures of you before you go into or after you leave the polling station are great to use on social media posts but don't take a picture of yourself inside the polling station as if you post this it could be a breach of the law.
- How to fill in the ballot paper:
- The staff at the polling station will give you two ballot papers, each listing the candidates you can vote for;
- Staff will be on hand at the polling station to provide advice on the voting process;
- Those who are disabled can ask the Presiding Officer for help and they can mark the ballot papers for you. You can also ask someone else to help you (e.g. a close relative or a friend or support worker, who is an eligible elector);
- Those who have a visual impairment can ask for a large print copy of the ballot papers, a special voting device that allows them to vote on their own in secret, or a magnifying glass, or they can use a magnifying app on their own mobile phone;
- Take your ballot papers into a polling booth so that no one can see how you vote. Read the ballot papers carefully. They will tell you how to cast your vote. The way you vote at the Police and Crime Commissioner election is different to the local election;
- Mark the ballot papers according to the instructions. Do not write anything else on the papers or your votes may not be counted;
- People are encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil to mark the papers, but clean pencils will also be available;
- If you make a mistake on a ballot paper, don't worry. So long as you haven't already put it in the ballot box, just let the polling station staff know and they can issue you with a replacement ballot paper;
- Fold your completed ballot papers in half and pop them in the correct ballot box - and that's it done!
For more information about elections in South Tyneside, and 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 or call South Tyneside Council's Elections Team on (0191) 424 7230.
Further details about the voting process is available at www.yourvotematters.co.uk