General election 2019: Can snow delay the vote and your questions answered

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Christmas tree outside 10 Downing Street in the snow

A general election is on the way and is set to be held on 12 December. But what does this mean?

Here are our answers to a sample of questions we have received from readers.

What happens if the December election returns a hung parliament? - Aaron, Londonderry

A hung parliament happens when a general election results in no party having a majority.

According to the House of Commons Library, hung parliaments may lead to a formal coalition (as in 2010), or government by a minority administration through a "confidence and supply" arrangement (as in 2017).

If no party, or group of parties, is able to form a government, another general election could be held under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

What happens if the prime minister loses his seat? - Sian Morgan Lloyd

Although very rare, it's not unheard of for a party leader to lose their seat.

Arthur Balfour, for example, lost his Manchester East seat as Conservative Party leader at the 1906 election.

If Mr Johnson was defeated in his Uxbridge constituency and the Conservatives won the election, the cabinet - a group of the most senior ministers - would be likely to hold a meeting where it would collectively decide who should take over.

That person would then be recommended to the Queen, who would appoint a new prime minister based on its advice.

If there is heavy snow or other bad weather on election day, can it be moved to another day? - Jonathan Corp

The election would go ahead even in a blanket of snow, because it is written in law. It cannot be postponed unless the law is changed.

If a winter election affects turnout, which parties will benefit or suffer most? - Phil, Northwich

Lots of assertions get made about winter elections - whether it's that they help the Conservatives because their voters are wealthier, older, and more likely to have a car and time on their hands. Or that they help Labour because their voters are more likely to live in urban centres and be mobile.

But the reality is, there is no good evidence from the UK that bad weather lowers turnout in general elections. There is some evidence from by-elections, which have lower turnout anyway, that bad weather has lowered turnout in the past. But this is not a consistent trend.

Turnout does seems to be affected by how close a race it is and how far apart the parties seem in their policies. When voters have very distinct options, which all look like potentially doing well, they are likely to turn out in bigger numbers, whatever the weather.

When is the deadline for voter registration and how will home movers be affected? - Steph

Media caption,

Don't get left outside on polling day - here's how to register to vote

Usually, voters need to register at least 12 working days before an election.

So for a general election on 12 December, that would make the deadline 26 November.

If changing address, it is best to update those details as soon as possible. All voters have to be resident at their registered address on the date they make an application.

Could Parliament sit over Christmas to discuss Brexit? - Peter, London

This is possible, but it depends on what MPs decide.

In the run-up to Christmas, after a December election, the government would need to decide what days Parliament will sit - or operate - over the festive period.

Any proposal for a Christmas break would then be put to a vote of all MPs.

Normally, MPs are given a break of about two weeks. Last year, for example, Parliament closed on 20 December and reopened on 7 January.

The general election explained

Is it possible to have another Brexit referendum on the same day as a general election? - Alice, Leeds

There is no legal reason why a referendum cannot be held on the same day as a general election. But holding a referendum together with a snap election poses a number of practical difficulties.

Any new referendum would require legislation to be passed in Parliament. The Electoral Commission - the body that oversees UK elections - will need to consider the wording of the question - especially if it is a referendum with more than two options.

Experts at the Constitution Unit at University College London say this process would take a minimum of 22 weeks.

How much would this election cost? - Jo, Guildford

When a general election is called, there are a lot of things that need to be organised, and paid for. It is difficult to estimate how much the forthcoming election might cost.

But, we do know that after former Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election in June 2017, the cost to taxpayers was more than £140m.

A Cabinet Office minister said that £98m was spent by returning officers to run the poll in their constituencies, while £42m went on posting material to voters.

In the same snap election, 75 parties and 18 campaigners reported spending more than £41.6m combined in the run-up. The Conservatives spent most at £18.6m, while Labour came in at £11m.

Image source, Getty Images

How will students moving back home for the Christmas holidays register to vote? - Chris, Welwyn Garden City

Students can be registered to vote at both their home and term-time addresses, as long as those addresses are not in the same constituency.

They can still only vote once though - voting twice in a general election is a criminal offence. Students can also apply for a postal vote in either their home or student constituency.

None of this is automatic though - they must register to vote and apply if they want a postal vote.

My wife and I go on holiday at the end of November. How will we cast our votes? - Nick, Dumfries

If you can't vote in person, you can ask someone to vote on your behalf, via a proxy vote. That person must be aged over 18 and be registered to vote.

Anyone voting on your behalf has to cast your vote at your dedicated polling station. Or, they can apply to vote for you by post up to 11 working days before the election.

They will receive a proxy poll card, telling them where and when to cast your vote.

But if you decide to return from holiday early, you can still vote in person, as long as you do so before your proxy.

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