Voters will have the chance to influence the makeup of South Tyneside Council’s chamber in local elections tomorrow.
Residents are set to go to the polls to elect their local councillors tomorrow with the results expected in the early hours of Friday.
South Tyneside Council has historically had a large Labour majority and at the end of last year’s local government elections, it held 53 out of 54 seats.
This year, 81 candidates are standing – 20 more than last year – with independents, the Green Party, Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP fielding candidates.
While the council elects by thirds, 19 councillors will take up posts this year with two seats up for grabs in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward.
And the number of independent candidates has more than tripled with 13 contenders in the running – compared to four in 2018.
Candidates standing in 2019 South Tyneside elections – breakdown.
Labour / Labour and Co-operative: 19
Conservative Party: 19
Green Party: 16
Liberal Democrats: 8
In recent years, opposition candidates have cited a historic lack of political choice in the borough and called for more opposition councillors.
In 2018, there was the chance a Labour whitewash would leave the party controlling all 54 seats- and no opposition.
This was averted by Coun Jeff Milburn winning the Cleadon and East Boldon ward for the Conservatives.
This year, council leader, Iain Malcolm, deputy council leader, Alan Kerr and cabinet member Fay Cunningham are defending their respective seats in Horsley Hill, Monkton and Bede.
In Cleadon and East Boldon, 11 candidates are in the running for two seats – one of which was left vacant following the death of Labour councillor David Townsley last year.
In Primrose, a vacant Labour seat is up grabs following a party decision to deselect outgoing mayor, Ken Stephenson.
And in Simonside and Rekendyke, another former Labour seat will be contested following the retirement of councillor Michael Clare.
What voters need to know before election day, Thursday, May 2.
There are 114,615 eligible voters and 80 polling stations will be open.
Vote in Time
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 2 May. (Voters had to have applied to register to vote by April 12 in order to be able to vote on the day.)
Polling cards have been sent to the addresses of registered voters - giving details of the location of their polling station. Voters can only vote at the polling station on their own poll card.
Plan when to cast your vote and leave plenty of time before the 10pm deadline.
Those who arrive at their polling station after 10pm will miss their chance to take part.
Make sure postal votes are returned by 10pm on Thursday May 2.
Those who have not had time to post it before polling day, can take it to any polling station in South Tyneside and hand it in. Postal votes that arrive after 10pm on May 2 will not be counted.
If you have appointed a proxy, then they need to make sure they are able to vote at your polling station on your behalf.
If you suddenly become unable to vote in person, due to a medical emergency or because your occupation, service or employment means you cannot go to the polling station, and you only become aware of that fact after the deadline, then you may be entitled to appoint an emergency proxy.
You can apply for an emergency proxy up until 5pm on polling day. Contact South Tyneside Council’s Elections Team direct about this, on 0191 424 7230.
Pictures of you before you go into or after you leave the polling station are great to use on social media posts but don’t take a picture of yourself inside the polling station as if you post this it could be a breach of the law.
How to fill in the ballot paper:
The staff at the polling station will give you a ballot paper listing the candidates you can vote for.
Staff will be on hand at the polling station to provide advice on the voting process.
Those who are disabled can ask the Presiding Officer for help and they can mark the ballot paper for you, you can also ask someone else to help you (e.g. a close relative or a friend or support worker, who is an eligible elector);
Those who have a visual impairment can ask for a large print ballot paper or for a special voting device that allows them to vote on their own in secret.
Take your ballot paper into a polling booth so that no one can see how you vote. Read the ballot paper carefully. It will tell you how to cast your vote. Do not write anything else on the paper or your vote may not be counted;
Mark the ballot paper according to the instructions. A pencil will be provided in the polling booth and pens are also available from the Presiding Officer, but some people may prefer to use their own pen;
If you make a mistake on your ballot paper, don’t worry. So long as you haven’t already put it in the ballot box, just let the polling station staff know and they can issue you with a replacement ballot paper;
Fold your completed ballot paper in half and pop it in the ballot box.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service