EARLY voters had the unusual election-day phenomena of frost and ice to contend with as they went to the polling stations today.

In the first December General Election for 96 years, polling stations were in darkness as the doors opened to voters at 7am.

There were only four voters waiting to cast their votes as the clock ticked round to 7am at one station in the North-East today.

Staffed by three cheery souls, facing a 15-hour stint issuing voting slips to arriving members of the electorate in the Houghton and Sunderland South constituency, The Blind Centre, in Thornhill Street, Houghton-le-Spring, took on its occasional alternative role as a polling station for local council and General Elections.

The early bird quartet included a lorry driver, a council driver and an office worker, all ensuring they cast their votes before starting work for the day.

Later, they may well be among the first in the country to know the outcome in their constituency, as the Wearside seat, in its various guises, has often been the first result declared after the close of polling stations in recent decades, albeit with a strong challenge from near neighbours in Newcastle, in the last two national votes.

Labour candidate Bridget Phillipson is defending a 12,341 majority, seeking a fourth term as MP in a six-way fight, featuring Richard Bradley, for the Green Party, Liberal Democrat Paul Edgeworth, Richard Elvin, of UKIP, Conservative Christopher Howard, and Kevin Yuill, standing for the Brexit Party.