Unlocking democracy: 8 top tips for voting in Scotland’s #Council17 elections

Nathanael Williams

CommonSpace goes through all the dos and don’ts in this year’s local elections

TODAY, (Thursday, May 4) a total of 1,227 councillors will be elected across Scotland’s 32 local authorities, with more than 2,500 candidates putting themselves forward for election.

People will head down to the polls to choose which parties and candidates they feel can run local services best, though issues around the UK General Elections and the constitution will also affect the vote. 

With more than 4.1 million people registered to vote, including those aged 16 and over, the election will see the single transferable vote system (STV) used by voters to rank candidates in order of their preference. 

We break down all the need to know tips so you can exercise your democratic rights free of any snags or barriers. 

1.) Don’t worry about ID!

When you go to vote you don’t need to produce your polling card but only your name and address. The only exception would be if you registered anonymously for security reasons.

2.) Keep those badges on the low down!

If you wear anything party political it may be construed as you attempting to influence or intimidate others going to the polls to vote. In the immediate area outside the polling station and inside don’t wear any political identification or sloganeering. 

3.) Second Chances 

Do not worry if you make a mistake on your ballot paper while voting. You can get a replacement in the polling station if you cross out the ballot paper and hand it to a polling clerk. They should issue you with a new ballot card. 

4.) Power of the postal

Some of us may have ordered a postal vote not expecting to be around to vote in person. But if your circumstances change there’s no need to panic as you can hand it into your local polling station today.

5.) Numbers game

The council elections and their results are counted electronically which is why the number system used to note your preferential candidates in order is so important. Voters should only use numbers (1, 2, 3 etc) and nothing else or the ballot will be rejected. This includes any ‘X’ or ticks on your ballot which will mean your ballot paper will be spoiled.

6.) Make your mark 

Did you know that pencils have been traditionally used in polling stations as it doesn’t smudge when wet? The pencil is a special type provided by the Shaw company that doesn’t smudge when wet or when the paper ballot is folded. Pen ink can smudge when it’s folded which could put a vote in doubt and it may not be counted.

7.) Emergencies on the day

If you have an emergency and cannot get to your polling station, just call the council to apply fo an emergency proxy who will go down and vote for you. The deadline for proxies is today at 5pm. If you need assistance to get to a polling station you can take a total of 2 people with you to help.

8.) Pups at the Polls

Yes, you can take your dog. In the last few elections, twitter saw an explosion of people taking pictures of themselves at polling stations with dogs which were followed by queries over whether voters with dogs would be admitted to their local polling stations to vote. To clarify you can enter a polling station with a dog legally, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the voting process.

Read more – Explainer: What are you voting for in the council elections

Read more – Explainer: The four major battles in Scotland’s council elections 

Read more – Explainer: Calls for Scottish Greens to back anti-Tory alliance across Scotland

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