EU REFERENDUM: Why your vote does count

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Britain gets ready to put pen to ballot paper tomorrow in the great EU referendum. On the final day of our “In or Out” series, FIONA FINCH looks at why your vote really does count.

It has been described as the most important ballot for a generation. And, with the result on a knife edge, every single vote could prove crucial.

The question facing voters will be: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Polls will open at 7am and close at 10pm.

Lancashire lecturer Dr Mark Garnett predicts the simple lack of a voting habit among the young could skew the result and he fears that will be unhealthy for democracy.

In the 2015 general election the turn-out amongst 18 to 24-year-olds was 43 per cent and for the over-65s it was 78 per cent.

The senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Lancaster University says a high turn-out is needed to ensure a decisive and truly indicative result.

He argues an older generation grew up with parents saying “You should vote.” So they did vote and that habit has now gone.

“It’s just a product of socialisation,” he said. “It’s not young people are any less interested.

“Referendums should be a reflection of what people as a whole feel and if this ends up being decided by just one part of the public the referendum has failed.

“It’s not been a reflection of national opinion, but a reflection of the tendency of some elements of the the country to vote more than others.

“The danger is this is going to be a reflection of the tendency of one age group to vote more than other age groups.”

The count will take place overnight, with Manchester acting as both a regional headquarters and the UK HQ.

After polls close, the sealed boxes will then be transported to the 382 local council counting centres, which include Preston’s Guild Hall, for verification before votes are sorted and counted.

It could be a long, long night.

The Electoral Commission predicts the national result will be announced at Manchester Town Hall at breakfast time, but says: “No-one knows how late breakfast will be.”

The final result will be declared by the UK’s Chief Counting Officer Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission.

In Lancashire the counts should be completed by around 4am, but the North West result won’t be known until after Manchester’s own count finishes at the Manchester Central Convention Centre around 5am and Sefton’s at Aintree Racecourse around 6am.

The local results will be declared by local counting officers and then transmitted to 12 regional headquarters. In Lancashire’s case it will be Manchester Town Hall.

The regional counting officer for the North West will be Manchester City Council’s chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein, who will declare the overall result for the North West once its 39 local results are in.

The regional map has been divided as follows: North West, North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, Scotland, South West and Gibraltar, East Midlands, London, Eastern, South East, West Midlands and Wales plus Northern Ireland. All the U.K.’s regional results are being sent to Manchester Town Hall.

The deadline for applying for an emergency proxy vote is 5pm on June 23.

WHY VOTE?

“It’s a very important occasion and one of the most important decisions we have to make as a country and it will affect them in terms of job security, immigration, the economy. Every single aspect of life will be affected by this decision” Tony Attard, chairman of Marketing Lancashire

“Whatever camp you follow - Leave or Stay - people must go out and exercise their right to vote. Just don’t let it float!” Andy Jones of Jones & Company Architecture

“People need to get as much information as they can and make a decision from an educated perspective” Adam Briggs, from the NFU

A HOUSE DIVIDED

Preston MP and former Central Lancashire Euro MP Mark Hendrick says that the EU membership “should be treasured and valued.”

He added: “The anti-Europeans and xenophobes who say Europe is a threat totally disregard the decades of successful membership which has contributed into making Britain into the world’s fifth largest economy.

“Yes we could ‘survive’ outside the European Union. Yes we could ‘manage’ outside the European Union. But at what price?

“The benefits of being a member of the largest single market in the world has costs and that’s why we pay contributions for membership as you would by joining any club.”

Meanwhile Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans, is the director of Vote Leave North West. He is a former chairman of the sub-committee on agriculture of the Council of Europe and former vice-chairman of the Technology and Aerospace Committee of the Western European Union and has been actively camapigning to get Britain out of Europe.

GROWTH OF THE EU

1951 Treaty of Paris establishes the six nation European Coal and Steel Community to help repair a war-ravaged Europe and foster future peace.

1957 Treaty of Rome created the EEC (European Economic Community) and the European Atomic Energy Community.

1973 UK joins the EEC

1986 Single European Act

1992 The Maastricht Treaty

1997 Treaty of Amsterdam

2016 The European Union now has 28 member states with a population of 500 million-plus.

COST of campaign

Anyone can spend up to £10,000 on campaigning during the referendum period, which began on April 15.

But lead campaigners have been designated for each side of the debate.

In Campaign Ltd and Vote Leave Ltd have a higher spending limit of £7m and get a grant of up to £600,000 to cover admin costs associated with setting up and running the campaign, campaign broadcasts etc.

Spending limits have also been placed on party political groups according to their share of the vote in the 2015 General Election.

If you intend to spend more than £10,000 you must register with the Electoral Commission as a registered campaigner.

It lists 15 categories of individual or organisation, ranging from provident societies to charities to registered political parties all eligible to register.

Registered campaigners will now have two other dates in their diaries besides polling day. Those who have spent £250,000 or under must submit their campaign spending returns by September 23. Those who have spent more than £250,000 must file returns by December 23.