UK & World News

  • 22 May 2014, 10:34

Millions Vote In Local And European Elections

Voting is underway in the European elections, the only time outside of a general election when all 46 million voters can take part in a ballot on the political parties.

At the same time voters in England and Northern Ireland will elect candidates in local elections, giving 23 million people the chance to cast a second vote.

The Electoral Commission has warned voters not to take selfies in the booths.

It is not against the law to photograph yourself at a polling station.

But anyone who inadvertently reveals how someone else votes could face a 5,000 fine or six months in prison, if for example they shared a photograph on social media which captured someone completing a ballot paper.

The commission has also raised concerns about election fraud in 16 areas including Slough, Birmingham and Bradford.

In one of the "high risk" areas, Tower Hamlets, there will be police stationed round-the-clock at all 125 of their polling stations to combat concerns about voter intimidation.

There are elections in 161 councils in England and 11 in Northern Ireland.

Polling stations open from 7am to 10pm, with the first council results expected to come in during the early hours of Friday.

The European election results will not be known until Sunday, with initial results expected from 9pm.

Twenty-eight member states vote in the election over the course of four days, with groups of countries voting on different days.

A total of 751 members of the European Parliament will be elected, the number rising from 736 in 2009 to reflect Europe's growing population and the addition of a new member state - Croatia - which joined in 2013.

The make-up of the new Parliament is likely to have a strong influence on the future direction of the European Union and its move either towards growing unity or separation.

As well as deciding on local councillors and MEPs these ballots will be seen as an important gauge of the electoral mood in the country ahead of the 2015 General Election.

The contest in Scotland is also likely to be viewed as a dry run for September's independence referendum.

Professor Michael Thrasher, from The Elections Centre at Plymouth University, said the contrast between the local and European polls "could not be greater".

He said: "Because of the system of proportional representation and the fact that the UK only selects 73 MEPs the scope for widespread change is limited.

"Not so in the local council version where more than 4,200 seats are at stake.

"Hundreds of these will change hands and the outcome will prove a more reliable guide to the 2015 General Election than the Euro equivalents."

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