With less than a month to go, there is not long left to make sure you can have your voice heard and have your say on who runs the country. A December date is a very unusual time for an election, but it came about because Parliament had a disagreement about how Brexit should be handled. We won’t go into the details here but this blog will show you how you can have your say.
Why is it important to vote?
Whoever wins the next election will form a new government that will make changes to laws that will affect us all. When you vote, you will be making decisions about issues that are important to you - such as education or health. Voting is the way to get your voice heard on how the country is run.
How do I vote?
If you live in England, the deadline for registering to vote in this general election is midnight on Tuesday 26 November. You can register to vote on the GOV.UK website.
You can register to vote from the age of 16 – but you won’t be able to vote until you are 18.
Registering to vote will ask you a couple of questions to make sure they know who you are. These include: your nationality, your date of birth, your name, where you live and have lived, where you want your data shared, how you want to vote and how to get in contact with you.
Once you’ve registered to vote, you’ll be sent a poll card just before the election telling you when to vote and at which polling station.
If the idea of going to a polling station fills you with dread you can register to vote by post. You can apply to vote by post on the GOV.UK website. The deadline for getting a postal pack is 5pm on 26 November, however you will need to be registered to vote so it’s best to do both as soon as you can.
You will need to download, print and fill in the postal vote application form and send it to your local Electoral Registration Office. You can find out the address using the postcode finder tool on the GOV.UK website.
Once this has been processed, you will receive your ballot paper. Remember to read the instructions carefully, vote in secret and make sure your vote is signed and sealed. You can return it for free at any post box, but it must be with your local authority by 10pm on polling day (December 12). We suggest posting your vote in plenty of time to make sure it is delivered and counted!
If you forget to send your postal vote – don’t worry! You can still take your postal vote to the polling station named on the form and you’ll be able to cast your vote in person.
If you have a disability you may be allowed a proxy vote. This allows someone else to vote on your behalf. You can apply for a proxy vote using a paper form on the GOV.UK website. You need to apply by 5pm on 4 December to vote in this election.
You can ask anyone to act as your proxy - as long as they are also registered to vote, allowed to vote in the type of election taking place and can vote in the polling station named on your poll card.
Preparing for election day
In the run up to an election, it’s a good idea to do some research on your local candidates and find out which party aligns most closely with your values.
You can do this by watching television and looking at your local paper. Candidates and their supporters often knock on people’s doors to talk to voters so you may be able to speak to them then to get an idea of their policies.
On the day, polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. If you go very early in the morning or late at night you should be able to avoid big crowds.
When preparing to go to the polling station make sure you have everything you need. You can take your polling card, but it does not matter if you can’t find it. Your name will be down on the list anyway. When you get inside the polling station, there will be people there to help that will show you where you need to go. Once you are inside a voting booth, there will be a pencil and the voting form. When you have voted, you leave the booth, fold your voting card so no-one can see it and put it in a sealed box. You can ask for large print voting guides and ballots at your polling station if you need them.
Once you’ve voted, it’s simply a waiting game to find out the result. Vote counting will go on throughout the night and by the morning the media will be reporting the results.
I hope this guide helps all autistic young people feel confident about going out to vote – it’s very important so make sure you have your voice heard!
If you are autistic or have a learning disability, you can find further information and support on voting here.