Today one third of Crawley Borough Council seats are up for election. The borough council run around half of local services in Crawley, with the others being the responsibility of West Sussex County Council.
In addition to running a number of important services, the borough council gets to set part of local council tax in Crawley, with the remainder set by West Sussex County Council and the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.
At the moment, no single party runs Crawley Borough Council and for the last year a joint Labour-Independent has been in administration, with the Conservatives as the sole opposition party on the council. With the council finely-balanced, both Labour and the Conservatives could gain a majority on the council today and in most years key seats are won by a couple of dozen votes.
Polling stations will be open today from 7am to 10pm, although anyone who is queueing at that time will still be allowed to vote. If you haven’t already sent back your postal vote, the completed and sealed ballot pack can be handed in at any polling station in Crawley (all the major parties have agreed to a code of conduct which prohibits campaigners from handling postal votes to prevent fraud, so unfortunately no campaigner will be able to help you with this. To find your local polling station go to: https://iwillvote.org.uk or by scanning the QR code below.
Despite the recent coverage, you don’t need any ID to vote, nor do you need your polling card. If you do turn up with your card it is likely that any party representatives at the polling station will ask for the number on it. You don’t have to share this, but the parties do this to check who has turned out to vote and if they know that everyone in your household has already voted you are less likely to get a knock on the door later that day. Throughout the day, parties will be sending campaigners around to encourage people to turnout to vote and they may well knock more than once. Sorry for any disturbance, but the evidence is that this significantly increases voter turnout, which is why people are using up their annual leave to do it.
It’s not obligatory, but please do wear a mask in the polling station if you can. Pens/pencils will be provided, but if you do take your own that will also help to reduce the further spread of COVID.
When in the polling station, give your name and address at the table and you will be issued with a ballot paper. There are alcoves provided so you can vote in secret. As there is only one election taking place in Crawley on Thursday and no by-elections, you will only receive one ballot paper and can vote for only one candidate. Please put a clear cross in the box next to the name of the candidate you wish to vote for and put nothing else on the ballot paper. Where other things are put on the ballot paper this has to be resolved at the count and if it isn’t clear which one candidate you are voting for your vote won’t be counted. If there is anything on the ballot which would enable you to be identified (name, address, signature, etc.) it will be automatically rejected, to prevent voters from being coerced to vote a particular way.
When the polls closed, the boxes are all sealed with a tamper-proof tag and then stored safely overnight before being taken to the count the next morning. Candidates, a limited number of their guests, and journalists are all allowed to attend the count to ensure the process is conducted fairly.
The first step of which is checking that the number of ballots in each box either matches the number which were issued at the polling stations (that’s the paperwork they draw a line on when they give you your ballot) or verified at the Town Hall for the postal vote box. Once all of that has been verified, we start counting the actual ballots and it’s at this point that a decision is taken on any unusual ballots, eventually culminating in a result (subject to recounts).
If you’d like to know more about the candidates up for election this year, local party websites tend to contain details, alternatively the independent website https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ provides summaries about each candidate on a single website.
As this election will produce either a Conservative or Labour controlled local authority this year, you might also wish to look at the local party manifestos. The Crawley Labour manifesto for this and past years can be found here: https://www.crawleylabour.org.uk/manifestos/
Unfortunately, no other local party appears to have produced a manifesto for this year’s election, but their respective websites and Facebook pages are likely to contain some details of the policy commitments they are seeking election to introduce.
Obviously, I strongly feel that one party stands to really look out for the needs of the community, but whoever you plan to vote for, please do take the time to vote. People continue to fight and die for the right to choose their own Government, just as past generations fought to preserve our rights.