2024 is Election Year

We’re getting in early as sometime this year a general election will be held to elect a UK government for the next 5 years. All 650 constituencies will see candidates standing to try to win the seat to be  Member of Parliament. MPs are elected using the First Past the Post system. You vote once for a candidate in your constituency and the candidate with the most votes becomes your MP.

In the weeks running up to the election we can look forward to, or dread, countless tv and radio interviews with current and past MPs, political commentators and members of the public. You may find electoral leaflets coming through your letterbox and even candidates knocking on your door to put their case to you.

If you who have turned 18 since the last general election, then this will be your first chance to vote in one. If you wish to do so, you must make sure that you are eligible. You can do this by checking gov.uk website, but the general rules are:

  • be registered to vote
  • be 18 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’)
  • be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • be resident at an address in the UK (or a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years)
  • not be legally excluded from voting

Voting in an election

You can either vote in person or by post. If you are a UK student and you are already registered to vote in your hometown but would prefer to vote locally whilst, at university, you will need to register again for your new resident area. But If you want to vote in your hometown but will be at university when the election takes place, you can apply for a postal vote.

If you are eligible to vote and have registered, you’ll be sent a polling card just before the election telling you when to vote and where. You can only vote at the polling station location on your card. You do not have to take your poll card with you. If you have not received a poll card but think you should, contact your local Electoral Registration Office. You can still vote if you’ve lost your card.

When you arrive at the polling station register at the desk. Then you will be given a slip with all the candidates’ names on it and directed to a polling booth where you can make your choice by marking X against your chosen candidate. Slips are placed in the sealed ballot box which is taken to the counting centre once the polls close. It’s then that the exit polls (taken from voters after they have voted) will be broadcast and give an idea of how the election has gone.

Most constituency results will be declared during the night. A few in remote rural areas such as Shetland not declaring until the next day. Every election there is a race between constituencies to be the first to declare their results. In 2019 that honour went to Newcastle. Some organize human chains to get the ballot boxes into the counting centre as quickly as possible and have an army of staff ready to count the slips. Candidates and members of their teams are allowed to watch the count to make the process as transparent as possible.

Once the final result is known the leader of the party with a majority of seats in the House of Commons will be the Prime Minister. If no party has an absolute majority, the leader of the party with the largest number of seats is given the first opportunity to form a coalition. And then the tricky business of running the country begins.

When you can vote

Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on the day of an election.

Key Dates

1832-Electoral register introduced. Only around 14% of adult males eligible to vote, women could not vote at all.

1867-Reform Act increased electorate to 32% of the adult male population.

1872-Secret ballots introduced.

1918-Men over 21 and women over 30 given the vote.

1928-Women over 21 allowed to vote.

1969-Voting age lowered to 18.

1989-British citizens living abroad given the right to vote for up to 20 years after leaving the UK.

Don’t forget that many people, especially women had to fight hard for the vote. So use your vote when the time comes!

By Vivienne Hamiliton

Photo Source Element5 Digital 

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