Guide to voting in the local elections in Bedford

Politicians are seeking your votes in elections to represent residents on Bedford Borough Council today (Thursday, May 2).

But many people, including older teenagers, are completely new to the democratic process, or do it so rarely that they might need a reminder to what they can expect.

Ballot box

Ballot box

So here is our step by step Q&A guide for inexperienced voters:

Can I vote online? No, unless you have pre-arranged for a postal vote or a proxy vote you have to go in person to what is called a Polling Station. There are polling stations across the borough, in all kinds of buildings.

When are the polling stations open? At local elections, the polling stations staff will be waiting for your company between 7am and 10pm.

What happens if there is a queue to vote? Any voter who arrives at their polling station before 10pm and is in a queue waiting to vote at 10pm will be able to vote. Legislation was changed in 2013 to allow this to happen following a recommendation by the Electoral Commission.

Who are the candidates? Candidates are seeking your votes in different elections to be Mayor of Bedford Borough, to be councillors on Bedford Borough, and some parish councils. Find out who they are, here: https://www.bedfordtoday.co.uk/news/politics
How do I know which polling station to go to? If you are registered to vote, you should have received what is called a polling card. The details of your polling station will be on there, with what is called a poll number. You can only vote at the specified polling station. You can find your polling station here: https://bbcdevwebfiles.blob.core.windows.net/webfiles/Elections/Situation%20of%20Polling%20Stations.pdf
Do I need my polling card to vote? No but if you have it, it will speed up the process.

I am disabled, will my needs be met? The positioning of all of the required furniture and equipment, as well as where all of the notices should be displayed, should also be considered, along with the placement of signage within the polling station and external signage.

I am blind, what about me? It is a legal requirement to provide a tactile voting device at every polling station. The tactile template is a device that allows someone who is blind or partially sighted to mark the ballot paper themselves, once the details on the ballot paper have been read out either by their companion or the Presiding Officer. In addition, a large-print version of the ballot paper must be displayed inside the polling station for the assistance of voters who are partially sighted.

If anyone outside the polling station asks for my number, do I have to give it to them? No. They will probably be party political workers who are checking to see if you vote, so they don’t have to encourage you to go later on in the day.

What happens inside the polling station? The staff on duty will ask you for your poll number to check that you are on their list, before handing over the ballot paper(s).

And then? Take your ballot paper, or papers, to one of the booths, where you can vote in secret. In the borough council elections, you will be asked to make one ‘X’ in the box next to your favourite candidate. If there is a parish council election in your area, too, make sure you read the instructions on the ballot paper.

What do I do after I have voted? Fold your ballot paper and place it in the ballot box, making sure not to show anyone how you have voted.

Am I allowed to take a selfie in the polling station? Given the risk that someone taking a photo inside a polling station may be in breach of the law, whether intentionally or not, the advice is against taking any photos inside polling stations. Plenty of people might be taking their dogs, though. Look for #dogsatpollingstations on social media!

What is meant by First Past The Post? Councillors are elected under a system called ‘First Past the Post’ The candidate with the most votes is elected. No candidate needs to get more than half of the votes cast, they just need to have a larger number than all the other candidates.