- Why vote?
- Who can vote
- Local Council Elections
- By elections
- Parish Council Elections
- UK Parliamentary Elections
- European Parliamentary Elections
- Mayoral Elections
- How to vote
- Polling Station
- Postal Voting
- Proxy Voting
The Governance Support Department is responsible for the administration of all elections within the Council as well as Parliamentary elections. This involves:
- dealing with nominations of candidates
- producing ballot papers
- issuing poll cards
- booking premises to use as polling stations
- recruiting and selecting staff to work at the polling stations
- recruiting staff to count the votes
- issuing postal votes and proxy poll cards
- counting the votes
Voting is the most important way to make your voice heard on the issues that concern you.
Decisions are made on your behalf every day, ranging from what is happening in local schools and what recreational facilities you have, to national issues like healthcare and education, to global issues like defence and the environment.
In many countries around the world, including the UK, people have fought to gain the right to vote. The right for women to vote on equal terms with men in the UK was still being argued about only 70 years ago. But having the right to vote is not enough. A strong and stable democracy also relies on people using their votes. By voting, you can hold your elected representatives accountable.
To vote in the elections you must be 18 or over and be either a British citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, a Commonwealth citizen and for some elections, a citizen of another country in the European Union.
Your name must also be on the Electoral Register.
Councils are responsible for providing local services and facilities. Your elected representatives, or councillors, also represent you at a local level. This is known as local government. Depending on where you live, your council is responsible for some or all of the following areas:
- council housing;
- education services;
- electoral registration;
- environmental health;
- leisure and recreation facilities;
- local planning;
- local transport;
- parks and public places;
- regulation of local business;
- roads and footpaths;
- social services; and waste and recycling.
Each councillor is elected for four years, but when you have an opportunity to elect them depends on the type of council you have in your area and what voting method it uses. If your council votes by thirds, this means that a third of councillors are elected every year over a three year cycle. If your council elects by halves, half of councillors are elected every two years. Torbay Council elects all of its 36 councillors every four years.
Torbay Council now holds local elections every four years, on the first Thursday of May.
Occasionally, a seat may become vacant if a councillor resigns or is no longer able to carry out his or her duties. In this case, a by-election will be held as soon as possible.The by-election will be advertised in the council offices at Castle Circus and also in the local area. There are no special rules as to who can stand for a by-election, - the same rules apply as for:
In July 2005 the residents of Brixham voted in a referendum to set up their own parish council.
Parish or Town Councils are the most local level of government in England.
Parish and town councils have a wide range of powers but little in the way of actual duties. The parish council decides the activities to be undertaken, which may include:
- management of allotments
- provision of recreational areas
- crime prevention measures
- traffic calming
- purchase of land and buildings
- commenting on planning applications
- Parish council elections are held every four years at the same time as ordinary district council elections.
The UK Parliament represents the people of the United Kingdom and has the power to make decisions and pass laws on a wide range of issues that affect you. It also:
- debates major issues of the day;
- scrutinises government policy;
- protects the public and safeguards the rights of individuals;
- examines European Union proposals before they become law; and
- hears legal cases in the House of Lords.
The UK Parliament is made up of two chambers or Houses – the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The House of Commons has 646 Members of Parliament (MPs). Each MP represents a part of the UK called a constituency or seat. The political party with the most MPs in the House of Commons forms the Government. The Government proposes new laws and raises issues for Parliament to debate. It also puts into action the decisions made by Parliament.
The House of Lords has around 700 unelected members who scrutinise the work of the House of Commons.
The Queen also has an important role to play in the UK Parliament, although it is mostly ceremonial. She approves laws made by Parliament and delivers the Queen's Speech which sets out what the Government plans to do each year.
At a general election you have one vote to choose a candidate to represent your constituency in the House of Commons. Most candidates are from a political party but there can also be independent candidates. After a general election, the leader of the party with the most MPs is asked by the Queen to become Prime Minister and to form a government that will run the country. The leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the Leader of the Opposition.
A general election must take place at least every five years, but often an election will be called earlier than that. The Prime Minister decides the exact date of an election, but it traditionally takes place on a Thursday. There must be at least 17 working days between when an election is called and election day itself.
The European Parliament passes laws that affect everyone in the European Union. It deals with issues such as the environment, human rights, consumer rights and economic development. Members of the European Parliament (MEPS) have the power to change, approve or reject new European laws.
There are 12 European electoral regions that make up the UK with each region between three and ten MEPs. Each group of MEPs is responsible for representing the whole of that region. Torbay residents are part of the South West region (which also includes Gibraltar!!)
The elections are held every five years and the next European Parliamentary elections will be in 2014.
Some councils are run by councillors and a directly elected mayor elected by the local people.
In October 2005, the electorate of Torbay voted in the first Mayoral Elections for Torbay. The elected mayor along with his cabinet is responsible for the day to day running of the Council. The elected mayor decides which decisions he should make within the overall policies of the Council and which decisions the cabinet will make, either collectively or as individual members of the cabinet.
The mayor proposes a budget and policies for the Council’s approval. If the Council rejects these or tries to change them, the mayor is entitled to resubmit them, at which point they can only be rejected if two thirds of the Council votes against them.
There are three ways in which to vote.
A few weeks before the election, you will receive a poll card (provided that you are on the Register of Electors for that area). If you not receive a poll card, you do not need it to vote but you may need to check with the Electoral Services office that you are on the register if you do not receive one.
Most people in the UK choose to cast their vote in person at their local polling station. Voting at a polling station is very straightforward and there is always a member of staff available to help if you're not sure what to do.
If you are on the electoral register, you will receive a poll card before the election telling you where and when to vote. The polling station is often a school or local hall near where you live.
The following steps explain how to vote at your polling station on election day.
- On election day, go to your local polling station.
- If you are disabled and need assistance getting to the polling station, contact your electoral registration office (or area electoral office in Northern Ireland) to find out what help is available. You can also ask to have a companion with you when you vote.
- Tell the staff inside the polling station your name and address so they can check that you are on the electoral register. You can show them your poll card, but you do not need it to vote.
- The staff at the polling station will give you a ballot paper listing the parties and candidates you can vote for. It will be stamped with an official mark. You may be given more than one ballot paper if there is more than one election on the same day. Electors in Brixham on 3 May 2007 will receive a ballot paper for the Torbay Council elections and will also receive one for the Brixham Parish Council elections.
- If you have a visual impairment, you can ask for a special voting device that allows you to vote on your own in secret.
- Take your ballot paper into a polling booth so that no one can see how you vote. Mark a cross (X) in the box to the right of the name of the party or candidate you want to vote for. Do not write anything else on the paper or your vote may not be counted.
- Finally, when you have marked your vote, fold the ballot paper in half and put it in the ballot box. Do not let anyone see your vote. If you are not clear on what to do, ask the staff at the polling station to help you.
Anyone aged 18 or over can apply for a postal vote. You do not need a reason to vote by post.
A postal vote can be sent to your home address or to any other address that you give. Postal votes can be sent overseas, but you need to consider whether there will be enough time to receive and return your ballot paper by election day.
Postal votes are usually sent out about a week before election day.
Following a recent change in legislation, electors wishing to vote by post or proxy are now required to provide “personal identifiers” in the form of a signature and date of birth. These measures have been introduced to make postal and proxy voting a more secure process. All elections taking place on or after the 3 May will require all postal ballot papers to be accompanied by a security statement which will require voters to enter their personal identifiers for the vote to be valid. At the opening of postal votes these identifiers will be compared against the signature and date of birth which we hold securely on file.
When you receive your postal vote ballot pack, you need to follow these steps to make sure your vote counts.
- Read the instructions carefully.
- Mark your vote clearly.
- Seal your ballot paper in envelope A.
- Sign the Security Statement.
- Put the Security Statement and envelope A into the larger envelope B. Then seal it and return it as soon as possible.
- Postal votes must be received before voting closes on election day.
3)Voting by proxy
If you are unable to vote in person, you can choose to vote by proxy (someone else voting on your behalf). You can apply to vote by proxy for a particular election, for a set period of time or for all future elections.
You can apply for a proxy vote as long as you are on the electoral register. When you apply for a proxy vote you have to provide a reason, for example, you are away on holiday or you are in hospital. If you want a proxy vote for a set period of time or for all future elections, you must have one of the following reasons.
- You are an overseas or service voter
- You have a physical disability
- You are away from home due to your job or you are on a course
- You have to travel by air or sea to get to your polling station
In all the above cases, except if you are registered blind, someone has to certify on your application that the reason is valid, for example, your employer or doctor.
Anyone can be your proxy as long as they are eligible to vote in UK elections and they are willing to vote on your behalf.
Your proxy must go to your polling station to vote. If your proxy cannot get to the polling station, they can apply to vote for you by post. Your electoral registration office can give you more details about this.
Your proxy will be sent a proxy poll card before the election telling them which polling station they have to go to.
You must let your proxy know how you want them to vote on your behalf, for example, which candidate or which party.
If you are able to go to the polling station on election day, you can still vote provided your proxy has not already done so or has not applied to vote by post.
- Governance Support Enquiries
- Tel: 01803 207171
- Fax: 01803 207112