‘Make your vote count’ - plea

USE your vote. That’s the message from politicians and lobby groups as polling gets under way in the General Election.

With opinion polls pointing to an uncertain conclusion and a hung parliament, the nation’s registered 44million voters are being urged to go to the polling stations in record numbers.

Average turnout at the 2005 election was only 61.3%, with Colchester recording just 56.85%, one of the lowest in southern England.

A YouGov survey of British adults aged 18 and over for the Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog, found that the main motivation among those planning to vote is that it’s one’s duty to do so (48%), whilst 27% welcome it as a chance to have their say and 22% are spurred by the chance to make a difference.

Voters seem determined to cast their ballot, with many of those intending to vote saying ‘‘nothing at all’’ would stop them.

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Polling stations will remain open until 10pm and following yesterday’s plea for the over 55s to vote, students and have been urged not to abstain.

National Union of Students President Wes Streeting said: “In the last General Election the student vote swung election results in some constituencies. No matter what constituency you are in, if you vote, you are making it harder for MPs to ignore the issues that affect students.

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“Today’s students and tomorrow’s generation of students deserve better from our elected representatives – make sure students can’t be ignored, get out the students vote. The General Election promises to be the closest in a generation. The prospect of a hung parliament is a real possibility, and the power of the student vote is huge,” said Mr Streeting.

“This election is your chance to influence prospective parliamentary candidates and have your say on the issues that affect you.”

Willie Sullivan from the Vote for a Change campaign said: “In poll after poll voters are demonstrating they’ve had enough of ‘we know what’s good for you’ lectures. Voters want a hung parliament.”

Matt Hancock, the Tory candidate hoping to win Suffolk West, said this was the most important election for decades and the outcome would deliver the direction the country is heading for years to come.

“It is vital for people to turn out and stop Gordon Brown staying in Downing Street.

David Campbell Bannerman, deputy leader of the UK Independence Party who is standing in Suffolk South, urged the public to remember that a lot of people died to protect democracy during the wars and the suffragettes had sacrificed a lot.

“It is important for people to express their democratic voice. There are huge numbers of undecided voters but I urge them not to stay at home but to turn out to vote.”

Mark Ereira, the Green Party candidate in Bury St Edmunds, dismissed the call of senior Labour figures for tactical voting against the Conservatives.

“People should vote according to their conscience and their beliefs and it is not for politicians to try to distort the outcome by pleading for tactical voting. They are desperate because their own party has failed to enthuse the public into voting for them. That’s not the voters’ fault – it is the politicians’.

“Once every five years, people have the opportunity to vote for what you believe. I think there is going to be a high turnout – I have not found any people who have said to me they will not vote.”

This was echoed by Labour’s Ivan Henderson, who is Labour’s candidate in Clacton. “I feel the elderly will come out in strength. They remember the bad old days under Margaret Thatcher and want to ensure they play their part in stopping the Tories’ bid for power.”

Stephen Robinson, hoping to wrest Chelmsford from the Tories, dubbed it “the most important election in a generation” and he expected voters to turn out in large numbers. This is down to Nick Clegg’s performance in the televised leaders’ debates. People are fed up with the blue-red red-blue spats and want real change.”

n People with postal votes who have yet to return them are able to deliver them by hand to the address on the envelope provided or to a polling station. It must arrive in time for close of poll at 10pm tonight.

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