Get registered Cumbernauld – don’t miss out on the biggest vote ever

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 14:45 on 12 August 2014.
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The different campaigns have only six weeks left to convert voters.                                                                                                                             Picture: Cumbernauld Media.
 




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SCOTLAND’S date with destiny is only 37 days away – but the number of Scots who might lose out on the opportunity to vote in the biggest political decision they will ever make is alarmingly high.

Figures confirm that nearly one-million Scots are not yet registered to vote in September’s referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.

The so-called ‘missing million’ voters have little time in which to register to vote – with the deadline of September 2 looming.

Electoral Commission figures, released in March, illustrate that over 4.1million people across Scotland are registered to vote, although it’s estimated that just over a million more people are eligible to vote, but haven’t registered.

The number of people on the electoral roll is at a record high, although contrary to popular belief, citizens are not automatically signed up to the electoral roll –registration is required.

In March, when the figures were originally released by the Electoral Commission, Andy O'Neill Head of Scotland office at the Electoral Commission said: "The snapshot provided by the publication of the electoral registers gives an indication of the hard work already put in by EROs, but that hard work doesn't stop now.”

He added: “EROs will continue to encourage as many people who are eligible to register to take action and get themselves registered before the 2 September deadline in order to take part at the referendum.

“The Commission will support EROs activities by launching a public awareness campaign in the summer reminding people that the only way to vote at the referendum is to be on the register."

Voters in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth have until midnight on Tuesday 2nd September 2014 to register on the electoral roll – and until 5pm on Wednesday 3rd September 2014 to register for a postal vote.

People can also register for a proxy vote ahead of the ballot on September 18th, by registering before 5pm on Wednesday 3rd September 2014, although an emergency proxy vote can be applied for up until 5pm on referendum day.

A gulf in the demographic of people registered to vote is also widening, with Electoral Commission research showing that only 56 per cent of 19 to 24-year-olds are registered to vote, compared to 94 per cent of people aged over 65, meaning the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has joined forces with the STUC and the Daily Record for the Mission Million to encourage folk onto the register and out the ballot boxes.

Launching the campaign late last month, John Downie, Director of Public Affairs, SCVO described the situation as “appalling”.

Mr Downie said: “We know that the top 20% of income earners are the most likely to vote, and as many as half of people in the bottom 20% don’t vote. This means it’s the poor, least educated and most vulnerable people who aren’t having their say. These are the people whose lives are most directly affected by political decisions about welfare, health and social care. If they don’t vote, it’s easier for politicians to ignore their needs.

“Politics is becoming all about raising funds and getting elected, no matter how few people actually support our politicians. But the referendum and other decisions about the economy, health and social care are far too important to be left to the politicians.

“Shockingly little is being done to convince people to use their vote but without enough voters we don’t have a healthy democracy. Charities can help but really it’s time for our politicians to do their bit to convince people that voting matters and to earn people’s trust.”

Ahead of the referendum, Cumbernauld Media is answering all of the key questions which voters may have, in a concerted effort to get as many people in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth registered to vote in less than six weeks’ time – with the key questions (and answers) below.

Q: When is the referendum?
A: The referendum will be held on Thursday 18th September 2014.

Q: What question will I be voting on?
A: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

Q: How long do I have to vote?
A: Your local polling station will be open between 7am and 10pm on referendum day.

Q: How many times can I vote?
A: Once. It is illegal to vote more than once.

Q: How do I know I am registered to vote?
A: Contact your local electoral registration board. In Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, that’s the Lanarkshire Joint Valuation Board. 

Q: How can I register to vote or find out more?
A: Visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

Q: What is the deadline for registering to vote?
A: Voters must register by midnight on Tuesday 2nd September in order to be able to vote on Thursday 18th September. However, the deadline for applying for a postal vote at the referendum is 5pm, Wednesday 3rd September, while the deadline for applying for a proxy vote is 5pm, on Wednesday 3rd September, while the deadline for applying for an emergency proxy vote is 5pm, on Thursday 18th September.

Q: Who can vote?
A: Any person who is resident in Scotland and will be aged 16 or over on the date of the referendum poll can vote in the ballot, provided they are either a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of another European Union member state.

Q: Can I be registered at more than one address?
A: Yes, although you may only vote once – it is an offence for any person to vote more than once. To be able to register at more than one address you must be resident at all addresses – i.e. a full time student living between a home and term address. Contact your local electoral registration office for more information and fuller confirmation of this position, as it’s at their discretion. 
Q: Can a member of the Armed Forces vote in the referendum?
A: Yes, provided they are resident in Scotland.

Q: When will we know the result?
A:  When the polls close at 10pm, and all of the voters who’ve queued before 10pm have had their chance to vote, the ballot boxes will be taken to the local authority count. In North Lanarkshire, the count will be undertaken at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility. Counting will begin as soon as all of the ballot boxes arrive, and the final result will be declared on Friday 19th September 2014.

Q: How do I vote in person?
A: Before polling day, all registered voters will receive a ‘poll card’, which will confirm the voter’s personal details, such as electoral roll number, address and name. The card will also tell you the address of your local polling station – usually a primary school – where you will be able to vote in person between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 18th September 2014. On polling day, take your polling card a good form of identification (i.e. a driver’s license or passport) to the polling station, just in case, and go to your station number – which go by streets – and go to the adminstator at the desk; they will mark your name off the register, to confirm you’ve voters, before handing you your ballot paper. Go into an empty voting box and mark an ‘X’ next to your preferred answer, either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Do not mark more than one box, and make sure your vote is clear and decisive – any other markings may spoil your ballot. 

Q: How do I vote by post?
A: To vote by post, voters will need to apply before the postal application deadline of 5pm, on Wednesday 3rd September. Thereafter, ballot papers will be sent directly to voters ahead of polling day – papers which must be completed and sent back to the Counting Office by 10pm on 18th September, with votes received after not being counted. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have enough time to post your ballot, then you can take it by hand to any polling station in your local authority area between 7am and 10pm on 18th September. Voters must complete the postal voting statement – with their signature and date of birth - and return this with their ballot paper.

Q: What is a ‘proxy’ vote and how do I vote in such a manner?
A: Voting by proxy means that you can have somebody whom you trust vote on your behalf, at the polling station. This is usually used in cases whereby a voter cannot make it to the polling station. To register for a proxy vote, you must get in touch with your local electoral registration office – which is the Lanarkshire Joint Valuation Board in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth – and complete a form ahead of the deadlines – which is 5pm, on Wednesday 3rd September, whilst the deadline for applying for an emergency proxy vote is 5pm, on Thursday 18th September.

Q: How can I find out more about voting in September’s independence referendum?
A: The rules on who can vote at the referendum are set out in the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 which was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Act provides for the franchise to mirror that in place for Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland with the addition of 16 and 17 year olds. 
 
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