Electoral registration officers are urging islanders not to wait until the date for this year’s general election – widely expected to take place on 6th May – has been announced before securing their right to vote.
Westminster is poised for Prime Minister Gordon Brown to go to Buckingham Palace next Tuesday to dissolve parliament ahead of the poll. So far, four candidates – incumbent Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Labour’s Mark Cooper, SNP hopeful John Mowat and Conservative Frank Nairn – have thrown their hats into the ring for the Orkney and Shetland constituency.
Mr Carmichael has been Northern Isles MP since June 2001 and won just over half the votes in the last UK election five years ago with a thumping 6,627 margin of victory over the second-placed Labour candidate. Turnout in May 2005, at 54 per cent, was below the nationwide average of 61 per cent, perhaps a reflection of the fact that the Liberals – in one form or another – have held the seat since 1950.
The local electoral registration officer, Michael Forbes, said this week: “The time between the election date being announced and the last chance to register to vote can be a matter of a few days. If you are not on the electoral register, you won’t be able to vote.”
There are three different ways to register your vote: in person, by placing your vote in the ballot box at your local polling station on polling day; by applying for a postal vote; or by proxy vote if you want someone to vote on your behalf or because you will be abroad at the time of the election.
If you want to opt for a postal vote but are worried because you are unable to sign the form yourself, or have trouble keeping your signature consistent, you can apply to “waive” the need to sign your postal vote.
The Orkney and Shetland Valuation Joint Board look after electoral rolls for Orkney and Shetland. You can find forms for registering to vote and to arrange a postal or proxy vote on their website at www.orkney-shetland-vjb.co.uk/ELECTORAL.html or at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk, the website of independent elections watchdog the Electoral Commission. You can also contact the electoral registration officer for Shetland on (01595) 745700.
For further information regarding any of the above options, or if you need information in any other form, you can contact the electoral registration officer for Shetland on (01595) 745700.