11 questions you need answered about the General Election
PUBLISHED: 05:30 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:35 10 December 2019
The waiting is nearly over for General Election day - Thursday, December 12, 2019. So when and where do you vote - and when will the results be announced?
How can I vote in the General Election?
The most popular way to vote is still in person, by going along to your polling station. In England, you do not need to take ID with you. You also don't need to take your polling card, although it will save time if you do. Taking photos or selfies inside the polling station is not allowed, but you can take them outside - and share on social media to encourage your friends to vote too.
It is also possible to vote by post or proxy (meaning someone else votes on your behalf), but the deadline for applying to vote in these ways has passed. If you have applied for a postal vote but have not been able to post your ballot paper back in time, you can take it to your local polling station by 10pm, or to your Electoral Registration Office before it closes. Voting online in elections is not possible.
What time do polls open and close on election day?
All polling stations open and close at exactly the same times across the UK. On Thursday, polling stations will open their doors at 7am and close at 10pm.
Even though polling closes at 10pm, the Electoral Commission has said that anybody who is eligible to vote and is standing in a queue at 10pm must be allowed to vote "whether that queue is inside or continues on outside the station".
Where is my local polling station in Suffolk or Essex?
If you are registered as a voter, you should have received a polling card in the post, telling you where your polling station is. Most are in buildings such as church halls, schools or other community buildings.
If you have mislaid your card and are not sure where to go, don't panic, you can still vote. To find out where your polling station is, visit the Electoral Commission website and type in your postcode. If you haven't received a polling card, you will need to contact your local Electoral Registration Office. Details of this are also on the website.
Where can I see the parties' General Election manifestos?
If you are still making up your mind who to vote for, you may want to study the parties' manifestos, which set out their main policies. They all publish their manifestos on their party websites. The full manifestos can be very long - the Labour one is 105 pages, the Green party's 84 and the Conservative one is 59 - but the websites also offer shorter versions. For instance, you can download a 15-page "easy read" version of the Lib Dem manifesto from the Lib Dem site, or explore it in full via a range of section headings.
Who are my local candidates for the General Election?
If you are wondering "Who can I vote for in the election?", you should have a choice of several candidates. There are Conservative and Labour candidates standing in every seat in Suffolk and north Essex for the election on December 12.
The Liberal Democrats are standing everywhere except Bury St Edmunds, where they have withdrawn to give the Green candidate a clear run. The Greens have stood aside in the Liberal Democrat target seat of Chelmsford in return. The Brexit party is now only standing in the Ipswich constituency in ouor area. See our full list of candidates in the region here.
When will the exit poll results for the General Election be released?
Many people have been eagerly following the deluge of opinion polls over the General Election campaign, including both national polls and ones in particular constituencies, usually marginals. Locally, we have carried out our own opinion survey in the Ipswich constituency, which suggested that the result may be close, with the Tories slightly ahead.
On the day, there will be a joint exit poll commissioned by BBC, ITV and Sky News, with fieldwork by Ipsos Mori, asking voters how they voted as they leave polling stations during the day. Results will be announced as soon as polls close at 10pm. The last exit poll, in 2017, correctly forecast a hung Parliament.
When will votes be counted?
After the close of polling at 10pm, the counting will start at election counts across East Anglia and the UK. First off, ballot boxes are delivered, and staff count the number of ballot papers. The second stage is to count the votes on the ballot papers, and this should usually start by 2am. How long the count takes can vary, depending on factors including the geography of the area and how long it takes to deliver all the ballot boxes.
When will the election results be announced?
The very first results usually come in at around 11pm, less than an hour after polling ends. In 2017, Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the first election to declare, while Houghton & Sunderland was the first in 2015. It has been estimated by Press Association that Suffolk Coastal, West Suffolk and Clacton results may come in around 3am, Colchester and Harwich and north Essex at around 3.30am, and Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, South Suffolk and Waveney at around 4am, However, this is only a rough estimate and counting can take a shorter or longer time. The overall result is likely to become clear in the early hours.
How many seats does a party need to gain control?
There are 650 seats in Parliament, so, to win a majority, a party needs to win 326 seats. In practice, the number is slightly lower because Sinn Fein, who held seven seats in the previous Parliament, does not take up its seats.
Who can vote in the General Election?
To be able to vote in this week's UK General Election, you need to be 18 or over on polling day, December 12, and be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen. The Electoral Commission website has a list of Commonwealth countries and details of how qualifying citizens are defined.
You also need to be resident at an address in the UK, or a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years, and not be legally excluded from voting. All voters also need to be registered to vote - the deadline for registering is now past.
Can EU citizens vote?
Around three million EU citizens are currently living in the UK, but most of them will not have a vote in the General Election. EU nationals have the right to vote in local council elections and also in European parliamentary elections, but not in General Elections. Irish citizens can vote, though, as can citizens of Malta and Cyprus, which are both in the Commonwealth as well as being in the EU.
However, there has been a rise in EU citizens applying for British citizenship since the Brexit vote, and those who have been granted citizenship will be able to vote.