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Guide to elections

There are various levels of government, each with their own level of authority. Elections are held to elect representatives to office who determine how services are delivered to the public.

All elections held within Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough are administered by us. We hold the electoral register, organise polling stations and all other aspects to do with an election.

County, Borough and District, Town and Parish elections determine the councillors who run your local services. Councillors are elected for a term of four years, although not all elections are held at the same time in the same year.

The way you vote for local councillors is similar to voting in a general election. The candidate who gets the most votes, wins - this is called a 'first-past-the-post' voting system.  When you vote in a local election, the ballot paper will list all the candidates standing. The boundary of the area is determined by the type of seat being contested.

Eastbourne Borough Council is represented by 27 elected councillors. Lewes District Council is represented by 41 elected councillors. Within Lewes District, there are also several smaller town and parish areas, each with their own elected representatives whose numbers vary depending upon their size.

County Councillors represent larger areas than parish, town or districts. They may represent the same geographical area, but determine the use of different services. East Sussex County Council has 50 elected members.

 In a general election, every area in the country votes for one Member of Parliament (MP) to represent them in the House of Commons. There are 650 geographical areas, called constituencies.

Each eligible voter has one vote in their local constituency, and the candidate with the most votes becomes the MP for that area. This voting system is called 'first-past-the-post'.

Usually the political party with the most MPs then forms the government - though two or more parties with a combined majority of MPs may form a coalition government. There has to be a general election at least every five years.

The Lewes District is represented by two parliamentary constituencies - Lewes and Brighton Kemptown. Eastbourne Borough is represented by the Eastbourne constituency.

 Elections for the European Parliament take place every five years. The last European elections were in May 2014, and the next elections currently remain scheduled for May 2019. The UK is divided into 12 regions, and each region has between three and ten MEPs.

MEPs are elected under a proportional representation system. In Britain, you have one vote to elect all of your MEPs. Each party puts forward a list of candidates, called a regional list, and you vote for one of these lists or for an independent candidate. The parties are then allocated a number of MEPs according to their share of the vote.

In the South-East of England, of which the Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough are part, there are 10 MEPs elected.

A by-election is held when a vacancy occurs during the life of the seat. It can be held for a County, Borough/District or Town/Parish council.

This can occur for a number of reasons including:

  • failure to accept office
  • resignation

  • death

  • ceasing to be qualified

  • becoming disqualified

  • failing to sign an undertaking to observe the council's model code of conduct

  • failing to attend meetings

A by-election for a vacancy in a Parliamentary seat is held following the issue of the Writ of election. The appropriate electorate will be informed of the by-election and will have the opportunity to vote for a new representative on the respective seat.