Election’s extra special for Tara

Electoral Services Team member Tara Shanks has just turned 18 and is looking forward to voting for the first time

Electoral Services Team member Tara Shanks has just turned 18 and is looking forward to voting for the first time

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SHE’S helped thousands of Wearsiders cast their ballots, but Tara Shanks has never been able to vote – until now.

The electoral services assistant from Hetton was in the thick of it last year as Sunderland voters went to the polls.

But Tara, a former St Robert of Newminster pupil, was not old enough to vote herself.

She said: “It did seem strange at first to be working in electoral services and working on the administration side of elections but not being old enough to vote.

“Once I turned 18 in August last year I made sure I was on the Electoral Register and registered for a postal vote. I know voting is important. People have fought and died for the right to vote.”

Tara chose to vote by post because her work commitments on election day – Thursday, May 5 – will make it tricky to visit her polling station.

Now she is encouraging other young people to cast their vote.

Statistics from the Electoral Commission show that 18 to 25-year-olds do not always register to vote, and many more do not bother to turn out even if they do receive their ballot packs.

Tara added: “We all have this right to vote and I’m going to use my postal vote in the local election and the referendum.”

Tara has an administrative role in Sunderland elections which includes registering people to vote and checking postal applications.

She will also be involved in opening postal votes and counting votes at the Sunderland Tennis Centre on election night.

There are 215,715 people on the Sunderland electoral register and more than one in three – 85,158 – have chosen to vote by post in the council election and the AV referendum. A further 130, 557 people can visit their local polling station on election day.

Postal votes must be received by 10pm on the day to be included in the count.

Anyone who has registered for a postal vote and who has not received their postal ballot pack by Wednesday, April 27, should contact Electoral Services at the civic centre on 561 1144.