AS the clock struck 10pm the doors of the polling stations have closed and the ballot boxes are sealed.
So what happens now? Ballot boxes are transported to counting centres supported by the police. Counting begins as soon as the first boxes arrive and continues through to Friday morning.
Tamworth however is often one of the first constituencies in the country to declare and so a result could be announced at around 2am.
Although nearly all UK, Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident in the UK and over the age of 18 have the right to vote, there are some exceptions.
- Prisoners cannot vote, although if they are on remand or not convicted, they can vote if they are registered.
- Those found guilty of electoral misconduct in the last five years also cannot vote.
- The Queen never votes. As the head of the state she must remain politically neutral and so it would be considered unconstitutional for her to vote in a general election. This also extends to the royal family.
- Members of the House of Lords can not vote in general elections.
Results and forming a government
To win a majority of the vote under the current system, a party needs to secure more than half the seats available. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons representing the 650 constituencies in the UK: 533 are in England, 59 in Scotland, 40 in Wales, and 18 in Northern Ireland.
With a parliamentary majority, it is almost certain the new government will have the support it needs to pass legislation.
Voters choose a candidate in their constituency, rather than voting for a party. The candidate with the largest number of votes wins the seat. In marginal constituencies, the contests are very close.
A party winning a majority of seats usually does not have to win a majority of the overall votes cast.
Could there be two elections?
A hung parliament is a possible outcome, when no single party has won an overall majority and no party holds more than 50% of seats in the Commons.
When this happens the party with the most seats looks to other parties for support to gain an overall majority, potentially to form a coalition or partnership. This is what happened when the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition.
This means the leader of the largest party does not necessarily become prime minister.
The civil service provides a private location, such as the Cabinet Office, for parties to negotiate away from parliament and the media.
If a coalition or partnership fails, the party that was in government before the election gets the first opportunity to try to form a minority government. If not, the prime minister will resign.
A parliament’s job is to amend and pass new laws. To do this, more than half the MPs need to agree by voting. This is much harder to achieve with a minority government. So a minority government may seek to call a second election to try to strengthen numbers.
However, legislation prevents a government from dissolving parliament (including for an election) at will – two-thirds of the Commons needs to vote for it.