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Basics: Understanding the vote

Video by Anthony Salamone (The University of Edinburgh) explaining the mechanics behind the UK's EU referendum.
The UK’s referendum on EU membership will take place on Thursday 23 June 2016. The basis of the referendum is the European Union Referendum Act 2015. The original bill was introduced in the UK Parliament several weeks after the May 2015 general election. The bill was sponsored by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in the House of Commons and the Baroness Anelay of St Johns in the House of Lords. Debates in Parliament focused in particular on who would be eligible to vote and the rules governing the lead up to the referendum. The bill received Royal Assent (it was formally approved by the Queen) on 17 December 2015.
The referendum process is overseen by the Electoral Commission, the independent election authority accountable directly to the UK Parliament.
The question on the ballot paper will be: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
The two options are: ‘Remain in the EU’ and ‘Leave the EU’. The original question wording was changed following a recommendation from the Electoral Commission.
Three groups are eligible to vote in the EU referendum: UK citizens - all who are resident in the UK and those who have been abroad for less than 15 consecutive years, Irish citizens resident in the UK and certain qualifying Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK. The voting age is 18 years - not, for instance, including 16 and 17 year-olds, as in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. In that sense, the franchise for the EU referendum is very similar to that for a UK general election.
It is different, however, from the franchise for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, and for municipal and local elections, in which EU citizens resident in the relevant territory are eligible to vote. The deadline for voter registration was the 7 June 2016. However, as a result of problems with the online registration system, the deadline was extended slightly. Cabinet collective responsibility has been suspended on the issue of the EU referendum. This means that individual ministers are free to decide which option they wish to back. The official government position is to support remaining in the EU. However, the government has pledged to implement whatever result the referendum produces.
Under the rules governing the referendum, the Electoral Commission has the power to designate a lead campaign group for one side or for both sides. In April 2016, the Commission designated Britain Stronger in Europe (The In Campaign), as the lead campaigner for ‘Remain’, and Vote Leave as the lead campaigner for ‘Leave’. This designation brings higher campaign spending limits and access to different kinds of publicity. There are many other campaign groups as well from different sectors, geographic areas and interests. The pre-election period, called purdah, began on the 27 May 2016 and will continue until the vote. During this period, the government cannot make any announcements or publications on issues related to the referendum.
On Referendum Day, Thursday 23 June, the polls will open at 7am and close at 10pm. Voters still queuing in polling stations at 10pm will normally be allowed to vote. Counting will generally begin straight after the polls close and will continue through the night and into the morning. The referendum will be decided on a UK-wide result, also with Gibraltar. Differences in results between the different parts of the UK will not be taken into account. There is no minimum turnout required and the result be decided by simple majority.
What are the mechanics behind the UK’s EU referendum? Anthony Salamone explains.
(Video/Design by Tim Askew. Voice/Script by Anthony Salamone.)
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Towards Brexit? The UK's EU Referendum

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