The United Kingdom goes to the polls today in one of the most unpredictable general elections in modern times.
Party leaders made their final pitch to undecided voters in some of the country’s most contested areas yesterday. Nevertheless, opinion polls have remained largely unchanged for weeks.
While either Labour’s Ed Miliband or sitting Prime Minister David Cameron are certain to occupy Number 10, the debate over the past few weeks has centered on the likelihood of an even vote and who from the lesser parties – the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP, UKIP or the DUP will form alliances with the two major parties to create a working majority. The computations are many and, unless the opinion polls are widely off the mark, the horsetrading will only be starting tomorrow, with a far from certain outcome.
Some 42 million Britons are registered to vote and general election turnout has been on the rise since 2005. Political analysts and observers were hopeful that an especially spirited campaign would help draw voters to the polls, but equally many voters may be turned off by the length of this campaign.
The youth vote remains crucial to today’s result. If all registered 18-24 year-olds turned out to vote, their voice could decide the outcome of this general election.
Here in London, Eastlondonlines will be providing coverage throughout the day and night, with analysis and on-the-ground reporting from Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon, until the results are in sometime in the early hours of tomorrow.
We will be paying particular attention to constituencies where the result is expected to be close.
If you’re heading to the polls as a first-time voter, or if it’s simply been a while, remember these simple polling dos and don’ts:
Know where your polling station is.
Get there on time. The polls will be open from 7am to 10pm and will have plenty of volunteers on hand to assist you.
Remember to bring a piece of photo identification with you. Although you don’t need your polling card, if you do have one, take it along.
Put down your smartphone and pick up your pencil. There is no specific law against taking photographs at the polling station, but the Electoral Commission strongly discourages it. Resist the urge to snap a selfie and take a thoughtful moment to exercise your democratic right instead.
Keep the conversation neutral. Try to avoid political banter while in the queue. If election monitors believe you are intimidating or influencing other voters, they have the right to ask you to leave the station.
X marks the spot. Make sure that your voting intention is clear. If you add additional comments or tick more than one box, your vote will be added to the reject pile.
A protest vote is a vote. If you are intentionally spoiling your ballot, you may write “none of the above” on your ballot with a tick next to it.
Registering twice doesn’t mean two votes. If you are registered in two constituencies, you can only vote in one. Choose wisely, votes in some constituencies carry more clout than others.
Don’t let the weather put you off. Rain or shine the polls are open.
By Kara Fox