General Election: Here's what Bedfordshire voters need to know as snap election called

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Yesterday, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the general election will take place on July 4, ending months of speculation.

At the last election there were six Bedfordshire MPs, however following boundary changes there will be seven representing the county.

The Bedfordshire constituencies for this election are: Bedford, Dunstable & Leighton Buzzard, Luton North, Luton South & South Bedfordshire, Mid Bedfordshire, North Bedfordshire, and the new Hitchin constituency, which means some Bedfordshire residents will be voting alongside Hertfordshire residents to decide who their next MP will be.

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Despite Sunak’s announcement yesterday, parliament will not be dissolved (the official term for closing it ahead of an election) until Thursday, May 30.

File photo of a person putting a vote into a ballot boxFile photo of a person putting a vote into a ballot box
File photo of a person putting a vote into a ballot box

This will give the government some time to get legislation/promises through so it becomes an act of parliament.

But unless it is passed before May 30 any legislation promised by the government, such as the smoking ban, will be abandoned as it can’t be carried forward to the new government.

The government will enter the pre-election period (purdah) so ministerial and departmental activity will be restricted. This is to ensure public money is not spent for political purposes.

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Current MPs will also lose their status and will have to campaign for re-election if they wish to carry on.

Although the general election is to elect members of parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons, many see it as an opportunity to say who will be the next Prime Minister and can feel that they are voting for them and not a local representative.

After the counts have been completed the King will ask the leader of the party with the most MPs to become prime minister and to form a government.

The second placed party will then become His Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition (the official opposition).

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If one party doesn’t have a majority of MPs (so it cannot pass legislation with just votes from its own MPs) there will be a hung parliament.

The largest party will have the option to offer a coalition agreement to another party (for example as with the Conservatives and Lib Dems after the 2010 general election) or operate as a minority government and hope there will be enough votes from other parties to pass any laws.

Voters will be anyone on the electoral register aged 18 or over on polling day as long as they are a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a Republic of Ireland citizen with a UK address.

If a UK citizen is living abroad they can register to vote in the constituency where they were previously on the electoral roll as long as they are not legally excluded from voting.

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Those who will be away on holiday on July 4, are too busy or ill to get to their polling station, or just find it more convenient to do so, can register (with suitable ID) to vote by post.

A postal vote needs to be with the elections team at your local council by 10pm on polling day to be counted.

Since May 2023, voters have to show a valid form of photo ID at polling stations to vote in person at an election.

There are various forms of ID that are acceptable, such as passports, driving licences or older or disabled person’s bus passes.

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The full list of options can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website.

An out-of-date photo ID could be an option as long as the user looks the same as the photo.

Another option for registered voters is to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate (a free document).

The administrating councils will write to registered voters over the next few weeks to inform them of their polling station.

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Bedford Borough Council is the administrative council for Bedford and North Bedfordshire constituencies.

Central Bedfordshire Council is the administrative council for the Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard, and Mid Bedfordshire constituencies.

For Hitchin, it is North Hertfordshire District Council.

Luton Borough Council is responsible for Luton North and Luton South & South Bedfordshire.

The main political parties are expected to publish their manifestos in June.