To vote in the Scottish elections on May 5th 2011 you must be 18 years old and a registered voter.
Registering to vote is the first part of the process of exercising your democratic rights.
If you filled out the form that was delivered between August and November by your local Electoral Registration Office you should be registered to vote.
If this was not done by you or other household member on your behalf you can still register to vote for the May 5th election. You can use the About My Vote website to register online.
Some people may have worries about going on the voters roll, possibly they have concerns about being harassed by debt collectors or other people who they don’t want to find out where they live.
There are two versions of the electoral register – the full version and the edited version. The full register is used only for elections, preventing and detecting crime and checking applications for credit. The edited register is available for general sale and can be used by other organisations for commercial activities such as marketing.
You can choose on your registration form whether or not to appear on the edited register.
You have two votes, one for a constituency MSP and another, often referred to as the “second vote”, to vote for a list, or regional, MSP.
Two ballot papers are issued, one for the constituency and one for the list vote, you use a single cross to mark your choice, one on each ballot.
How the right to vote was won
Your right to vote in the United Kingdom has been hard earned through militant campaigns to give the people the right to choose their political representatives.
It was only in 1928 that all women finally won the right to vote after a titanic battle with the British state in which many forms of direct action were pioneered; chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to mailbox contents and smashing windows.
One suffragette, Emily Davison, died after she stepped out in front of the King’s horse, Anmer, at the Epsom Derby of 1913. Many of her fellow suffragettes were imprisoned and went on hunger strikes, during which they were restrained and forcibly fed.
Previously it had been the world’s first working class organisation, the Chartists, who had fought for the extension of the franchise from landowners and property holders to the working man.
In a period of historical turmoil between 1838 and 1850, England, Scotland and Wales were convulsed by uprisings of workers, agricultural labourers and the liberal middle classes demanding the right to vote.
The Chartists linked their demands for universal suffrage to the economic demands of the working class. Chartists were in the leadership of a series of strikes that swept 14 English and 8 Scottish counties, principally in the Midlands, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, and the Strathclyde region of Scotland. Typically strikers resolved to cease work until wages were increased and ‘until the People’s charter becomes the Law of the Land’.