Pens and masks: What you need to remember to take to Sunderland polling stations during pandemic
Voters have been urged to remember to take a mask and a pen or pencil when they head out to vote.
Wearside is due to head to the polls tomorrow (Thursday, May 6) to pick a fresh slate of local authority councillors and a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
But more than a year of restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic may mean a different experience to the last round of elections in 2019.
Patrick Melia, returning officer for Sunderland City Council and Northumbria Police, said: “While we have seen Covid rates dropping, this is not the time to let down our guard.
“Local authority staff in elections and public health, alongside many others, have been working hard to make sure polling stations are safe places to vote.
“Voters can expect to see many of the measures they’ve become used to seeing in shops and banks, or other indoor spaces, such as social distancing and hand sanitiser.
“You should bring your own pen or pencil, in order to minimise contact.
“You should also wear a face covering so that you can keep yourself, and others, safe on Thursday.”
Polling stations are due to be open from 7am – 10pm, but voters have also been assured that anyone who turns up without a mask should not be prevented from voting, while some spare pencils and face coverings will also be available for anyone who forgets.
Anyone who missed the chance to send their postal ballot off will also have a second chance to vote by taking it to their assigned polling station.
And anyone who suddenly finds themselves unable to attend with Covid-19 symptoms or a positive test will be able to apply for an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm (Thursday, May 6).
While some have predicted continued coronavirus restrictions could mean a reduced turnout, others in the city are expecting a more positive response.
“At first I thought turnout would be way down,” said Sunderland’s Liberal Democrat leader Niall Hodson.
“Now I think it may be closer to normal and possibly even up slightly – interest is more or less the same, but on the doorstep pandemic stuff hasn’t really been raised, it’s been the usual local stuff, like council services.”