Selfies and dogs at polling stations: What can I do when voting today?

Selfies and dogs at polling stations: What can I do when voting today?
Everything you need to know about casting your vote on Super Thursday

Polling stations have opened across the UK for voters to cast their ballots in a set of crucial elections on what has been dubbed ‘Super Thursday’.

Millions of voters in England, Scotland and Wales will elect councillors, police commissioners, mayors and one MP to power in the largest test of political opinion outside a general election.

Here’s everything you need to know about what you can do when going to vote today:

Where do I go?

If you are eligible to vote, you should have received a polling card in the post in recent weeks.

Your polling card contains information such as your polling number and the address where you can cast your vote, which is your polling station. You don’t have to bring the card with you to vote, but it can help you do it quicker.

Polling stations will operate between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 6 May. You can go and cast your vote within these hours.

However, if you did not receive a polling card, contact your local authority’s election office.

Are polling stations Covid-secure?

There will be plastic screens and one-way systems in place at polling stations to keep voters and the people working at the stations safe. Hand sanitiser will also be provided.

Voters are asked to wear a face covering inside the polling station – however, the Electoral Commission has said no one will be refused entry if they do not wear one.

You are also asked to bring your own pen or pencil to keep the process as Covid safe as possible, but pencils should be available in the polling stations if you forget.

What if I can’t go and vote?

While the deadline to apply for a postal vote or proxy vote – where someone goes to the polling station on your behalf – has passed, you can still apply for an emergency proxy vote.

You could be eligible if you have experienced a medical emergency, you have had to go away for work or you are self-isolating due to coronavirus since the deadline passed.

You can make the application by contacting your local council at any time until 5pm today. After that, you will not be able to vote.

Can I take selfies and share them on my social media?

You are advised against taking a selfie inside the polling station, as it could risk accidentally giving away how someone else has voted, which is illegal.

You are also not allowed to take a photo of your ballot paper. If you reveal how anyone else voted – for example, the person in the booth next to you – even by accident, you will face a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison.

Voters are not advised to update their social media accounts while inside the polling station.

However, you are welcome to take and share selfies outside the polling to station “to encourage your friends and family to vote”, says the Electoral Commission.

Can I bring my children?

You can bring your children to the polling station. It is encouraged to educate them about democracy.

However, they are not allowed to mark your vote on the ballot paper.

Can I bring a pet?

Animals are not usually allowed in polling stations unless they are assistance dogs.

If you do bring your non-assistance dog, they will have to wait outside. In recent years, thousands of voters have shared photos of their dogs outside polling stations using the hashtag #DogsAtPollingStations.

What can I wear?

Voters can wear anything they want, including political clothing – for example, something bearing a slogan or the name of a political party. There is nothing in law to prevent people from wearing such clothing going into a polling station with the intention to vote.

But campaigning inside polling stations is not permitted and anyone wearing political clothing should leave immediately after voting.

What else can’t I do inside the polling station?

You cannot discuss any candidates or parties while inside the polling stations. Staff will intervene if they hear you having political discussions with anyone else.

You should also avoid signing your ballot paper, especially if the name is identifiable as this will mean the vote does not count.

What help can I get if I am disabled?

A close adult family member or another eligible voter, such as a support worker, can accompany you to the polling station if you are disabled and need help. A friend can come to help if they are registered to vote at your polling station, but they cannot enter the booth where you vote.

Alternatively, a presiding officer can mark the paper for you.

If you have a visual impairment, you can request a device that lets you mark your own ballot paper, or ask for a large-print version.

Polling stations are selected for accessibility, but if a voter is unable to enter, the presiding officer may take the ballot paper to them.

If you require further help, you can call the Electoral Commission on 0333 103 1928.

Additional reporting by agencies