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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
Sunshine brings local voters out
West Midlands
Police keep a watching brief in the West Midlands
The signs suggest warm sunshine has helped boost turnout in the local elections in England, as voting enters its last few minutes.

Some 144 English authorities and all 32 of London's boroughs are holding votes, as 4,360 council seats are contested.

Thirty-six metropolitan authorities and 20 unitary authorities are electing a third of their council members, while 88 districts are also holding polls.

Watford, Hackney, Newham and Lewisham are holding mayoral elections.

And a referendum is taking place in Crewe on whether the Cheshire town should have an elected mayor.

Although 23m people - more than half the UK's electorate - are eligible to take part, turnouts in local elections are historically low, with only about a third bothering to vote.

But there was an early indication of increased turnout in south London's Lambeth Borough, where Labour and the Liberal Democrats are battling for control.

32 London boroughs
36 metropolitan authorities
88 district councils
4 mayoral elections

About 3.5% of the electorate voted in the first two hours at a polling station in key marginal Streatham South ward.

A projection, allowing for the fact that half of those voting traditionally do so after 1700BST - and taking account of postal votes - suggests a final turnout figure of nearly 40% compared with just over 30% last time.

Temparatures in London have reached 26C, making it the warmest day of the year so far.

Late night

Polls will be open until 2200 BST - a change from previous local elections - to bring them into line with the opening hours of polling stations at general elections.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and wife Cherie cast their vote at their local polling station in Westminster.

Conservative leader David Cameron and wife Samantha attended a polling station near their West London home.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell does not have a vote, as his home address is in Scotland, where no elections are taking place.

Cherie and Tony Blair
The Blairs arrive at their local polling station in Westminster

The leaders face a long night waiting for results to come in, with a full picture of how their parties have done unlikely to emerge much before dawn.

The first results are due around midnight in the North-West, followed in the early hours of Friday by councils in the Midlands, North and shire counties.

But many London boroughs - where all of the seats are up for grabs, making it a key battleground - are expected to declare between 0300BST and 0600BST.

Police deployed

2200:Polls close
0015: Rochdale
0130: Camden
0145: Birmingham
0200: Tower Hamlets
0230: Barking and Dagenham
0245: Hull
0300: Hammersmith and Fulham

Meanwhile, police officers are being deployed at several inner-city polling stations to prevent vote-rigging.

West Midlands Police said officers would be sent to Bordesley Green in Birmingham, where specialist electoral fraud investigators have uncovered alleged irregularities relating to 190 postal votes.

Extra officers are also being deployed in Bradford, where police have launched an investigation into a "small number" of vote fraud claims.

David Cameron
The Camerons cast their vote near their West London home

In the metropolitan council areas, Labour has the most candidates - 821. The Conservatives have 772, Liberal Democrats 708 and others 875.

In the shire districts, the Conservatives are fielding 1,326 candidates, Labour 1,172, the Liberal Democrats 1,052 and others 782.

In total across England, the "others" include 1,251 Green candidates, 363 from the BNP, 319 from UKIP and 162 from Respect - the Unity Coalition.

Have you had any problems voting?

The following comments reflect the balance of opinions received.

It was my first time voting here in the UK. I had no idea where to go, where the polling station was until I searched the web. None of my friends even remembered it was Election Day. The voting itself is silly; I could've given any name of my street or anywhere else and taken their vote. No one asks for any ID, no need for a voting card. What's this all about?
Peter, London

I did not receive a voting card. I went to the usual polling station and found it was not open, with no notice of explanation. I found the details of the local election helpline on the internet and rang them up to find out where my polling station was. I set off to vote again and was told a lot of people had not received cards and were not aware of the changes of polling station. I think this is a very poor effort all round.
David Fell, Bradford

We are a young married couple (German and Swedish)... having lived in the UK for a few years now and following UK politics closely, we finally made it to the polling station on this beautiful day for the first time! Voting is the only way people can change things, and although we cannot participate in the national elections, we are happy that our voices count locally where we live. We had originally applied for postal votes, but our votes were accepted at the polling station an hour ago - contrary to our fear there would be no flexibility. Glad to hear from Christopher that he had a good experience in Hamburg too!
S & E Engstrom, Ham, Surrey

Today was my first ever vote in any election. As an 18 year old I was not surprised to see the majority of voters at least twice my age. Voting was very easy, only five minutes' walk. I did have a laugh at school when a friend brought in his own voting card; he is under age and received a voting card under his name. Talk about a wasted vote!
Sevag, West London

I've lived in Leicester, in the London Boroughs of Hillingdon and Ealing, never had a problem in any of them whilst voting. I've since moved to Germany, and I received a personalised voting card last year in English (my Estonian girlfriend at the time got one in Estonian). As an EU citizen I can only vote in the local council elections. Polling station was well sign posted, had to show my ID card and voting card (with map of polling station on the back). Voting was brisk with a turnout of around 73%.
Christopher, Hamburg, Germany

I went to vote this evening. Not a problem, apart from the ballot box being full, about time!
Simon O'Donovan, Hampstead UK

You do not need to present or even receive your voting card in order to be able to vote in elections in the UK - all you need to do is turn up and state your name and if you are on the register, you may vote. The polling card is advice about your ward and polling station only. If you registered to vote you can vote
Benjamin, Dudley

The reason some people haven't received poll cards is because there aren't any local elections in their wards.
Mark, Glos.

I moved house in November. In March I received a letter confirming that I am on the electoral role at my new address. However, when I went to vote today there is no record of me being on the electoral role at either my new address or my old address. This has prevented me from being able to vote today, something I feel strongly about.
Gwendolyne Smith, Lewisham, London

I wanted to vote but I found out at short notice that I would be away on business on polling day. When I contacted RBKC to arrange for a proxy, they told me they had no contingency measures in place for people like myself - no apology, no regrets. I will still aim to vote in future elections (business permitting) but this incident has somewhat dented my enthusiasm in our democratic system.
Dana, Kensington & Chelsea, London

Two Pensioners - received no voting cards. We went along to our local school wishing to vote. There was no Polling Station there. We have received no leaflets or visits from any candidates. We don't know who is standing or how we can vote. What diabolical apathy on behalf of all concerned in Ware. How and where can we vote?
Audrey & Bob McClernon, Ware, Hertfordshire, England

My partner applied for a postal vote here in Walthamstow as she is away on a training course. It never turned up. So much for postal voting increasing turnout!
Jonathan, London, UK

I recently moved from Coventry to Walsall. I moved March 3. I have not received any voting cards, so this year, despite being given a council tax bill, I am unable to vote. Where are my voting cards? How many other people are voteless through council ineptitude? Or have they withheld my voting cards on purpose?
Paul, Walsall

Those political activists outside polling stations are generally not interested in how you voted; they just want to know whether their supporters - already identified during canvassing - have turned out to vote. Telling them your electoral roll number means they won't come knocking on your door later that evening, when they try to maximize their share of the vote by dragging their supporters away from the telly.
Ian, Chipping Norton, Oxon

I'm more concerned about the security of voting, especially in light of the voting fraud recently highlighted. My family and several of our neighbours didn't receive our voting cards and on appearing at the polling station, we stated our name, were found on a list and weren't asked for any identification. A system ripe for abuse?
Darren, Enfield, London

Mr Burgess in Wembley does not know how lucky he is with ten candidates to choose from. In our ward there are exactly two candidates standing. What a choice! Is it indeed any surprise that voters turn their back on the political process?
John, Walsall

I have just arrived home to find my voting card spoiled on the door step and hardly recognisable. What right do I have as a registered voter to still cast my vote?
Andy, Crawley, West Sussex

I had real difficulty finding out where to vote in Hackney. No polling card was sent to my house so I had to phone the council to find out where my polling station was. When I arrived, there were barely any signposts indicating where I needed to go. With these kind of hurdles, no wonder turn-out is so low.
Nick, London

Here in Wales we are so far out of it we don't even have a vote.
Jerry Seaton, Swansea

For my ward's voting location I searched for my polling station on the internet. Similarly, if I want to decide which party will have my vote, I will do my own research. As much as it's my right to vote it's my responsibility to make an informed choice. In the age of the internet and 24 hour news channels, there's no excuse
S Beken, London UK

If some contributors are so reliant on having the council tell them: Where the polling station is; How many votes they have; How to vote; it simply goes to show how important councils are! Whilst I sympathise with anyone who has had a real problem with voting (stolen postal votes, poor administration etc.) it saddens me that most people can't be bothered to vote and so few realise how lucky they really are.
Nick Hempleman, Lewes

It's not warmer weather, or extended voting hours that are needed to increase voter turnout: we need to reform the outdated and un-representative first past the post (FPTP) system of elections. Every vote should count - that way voters will feel they have invested in the democratic process.
Andrew, Urmston, England

My local Council have come up with the novel idea of putting a map of the locality on the back of our voting cards to show where the Polling Station is. A lot of apathetic "voters" will no longer be able to use the "I didn't know where to vote" excuse in my ward at least.
Joseph Farrington, Oldham, Lancashire, UK

Am I the only one who objects to running the gauntlet of the political activists outside the polling stations? If anyone can be bothered to vote they have already made up their mind who for. They won't be changed outside. It's a secret ballot so why should I tell them on the way out?
Tim, Bethnal Green (Tower Hamlets), London.

I will also be unable to vote due to council administrative errors. As I move house a lot, this is the usual state of affairs. The media exaggerate the 'apathy' problem - my own experience and that of many people I know suggests that electoral administration bars a large slice of the electorate from voting - nothing to do with apathy.
Neil, London

Being 18 it was my first time voting today. As a close follower of politics I was rather surprised that only two parties were up for election in my area: Labour and Conservatives. Plus the only thing my household received was a single leaflet two months ago. Is it any wonder why there is such a low turn out on local elections?
Lee, Manchester

Our ward seems to suffer from candidate (as opposed to voter) apathy. There are ten candidates but no-one has called at the door, and only one party has put through a leaflet. I know it's a safe seat, but if you're fielding a candidate, at least bother to tell us your policies! No wonder people can't be bothered to vote!
Burgess, Wembley, UK

I've turned 18 in the past six months but am not eligible to vote in today's elections, as I am outside the areas up for election. However, what concerns me is the lack of information provided to me as to whether I need to register or if it has been done for me when elections come around. Nothing has been done to inform me of any important political issues such as this.
James, Aldershot

I sympathise with Bobby, I lost my vote at the General election because I moved home at the wrong time. The government should sort out failing and outdated systems before embarking on a multibillion pound ID card scheme.
Paul, Staines

We recently moved to a new property and like Bobby they cannot add us to the electoral role in time to vote. However, they did manage to send us a council tax bill three days after we moved in!!
Catherine Jackson, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Until I voted earlier I wasn't aware that I had three votes! I think a bit more explanation should be sent out with the poll cards to explain just exactly what people will be voting for and what the process involves. It can all be very overwhelming to the uninitiated.
Nicola, London

I haven't had trouble voting, but I don't know where I am supposed to go to vote. It would be nice to see some form of advertisement or notices informing residents where they can vote
Colin, Colchester

I live in Tower Hamlets, East London. I have just found out that I cannot vote because someone has applied on my behalf to vote by post. Police are investigating here as well but it seems to me that the local council and the Home Office should take responsibility for not having ensured that this cannot happen.
Vasso Agapitou, London

I recently moved to Camden and tried to register to vote. Apparently I should have done so by March 14 in order to have been registered for today (that's over 50 days). In a modern world and modern city that's a long time, perhaps I should also be allowed 50 days to pay for congestion charge, and parking fines etc. before being hit with fines??
Bobby, London


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