1 The count Who this document is for Candidates and agents in England who want more information about what to expect at a local government election count. The document covers counting agents the count process what happens after the declaration of results Related documents Election agents Secrecy requirements Forms Form for appointing counting agents Need help? Just call us phone numbers can be found on page 8. 2 Counting agents Candidates can appoint agents to observe proceedings at the count. What does a counting agent do? Counting agents have a number of important roles to play at the count: They observe the counting process and make sure that it is orderly and accurate They can draw to the attention of count staff any doubtful ballot papers If they disagree with a decision by the Returning Officer to reject a ballot paper, the counting agent can ask the Returning Officer to mark If a count is suspended for any reason, counting agents can add their seals when the Returning Officer seals the ballot boxes and envelopes Who can be a counting agent? Anyone, apart from officials employed by the Returning Officer, can be appointed as a counting agent. An election agent can act as a counting agent themselves. A person can be appointed as a counting agent and an agent to attend other proceedings, such as the poll or the opening of postal votes. For more information on those, please see the relevant guidance documents on our website. Election processes at a local government election in England 3 How to appoint counting agents The request to appoint counting agents must be made in writing to the Returning Officer. It must contain the names and addresses of the people being appointed. For the elections on 5 May 2011, the request must be submitted to the Returning Officer no later than Tuesday 26 April 2011. The Returning Officer will provide a form for this, or you can find one on the . How many counting agents can be appointed? The Returning Officer will tell you the number of counting agents you can appoint. All candidates will be allowed to appoint exactly the same number of counting agents. This calculation ensures that every The minimum number of counting agents per candidate is counting assistant will calculated by dividing the number of counting assistants be observed by at employed at the count by the total number of candidates. least one counting agent, irrespective of which candidate they When and where does the count take place? are acting for. The Returning Officer will notify counting agents of the exact time and location. For the elections on 5 May 2011, this will be soon after Tuesday 26 April 2011. Need help? Just call us phone numbers can be found on page 8. 4 What happens after ballot boxes are delivered? Where the election Check-in has been combined with another election or referendum, all 1 The Returning Officer s staff deliver the ballot box(es) from the polling station to the count venue ballot boxes will be verified before any results are declared. 2 they arrive at the count venue There may be a single ballot box for all elections or separate boxes for each. In any case, ballot papers will be sorted into the Verification separate contests. Ballot boxes are emptied onto tables and the empty 3 boxes are shown to agents Any ballot paper found ballot box is still valid Staff count the ballot papers from each polling station and will be moved to 4 the correct box during verification. Staff check that the number of ballot papers matches 5 the number of papers issued, as recorded on the Presid 6 The numbers of verified ballot papers are shown to election and counting agents Sometimes there may be a small discrepancy between the number of ballot The Returning Officer determines the reasons for any 7 discrepancy and produces a final verified total papers counted and the number expected. This may be due to a small error on the ballot paper account The Returning Officer produces a statement of the 8 verification. Agents can view or copy this statement if or due to a voter not placing their ballot they wish paper in the ballot box Election processes at a local government election in England 5 If the count does not Counting of votes take place immediately following 9 Staff sort ballot papers by candidate verification, the verified boxes will be stored securely. Candidates and 10 Staff count the number of votes cast for each candidate agents can attach their seals to boxes if they wish. What if the vote on a ballot paper is not clear? A ballot paper will not be counted if it: is unmarked does not contain the official mark contains votes for more candidates than the number of vacancies contains any mark that may identify the voter . The Returning Officer must draw up a statement showing the number of ballot papers rejected for these reasons. If the on a ballot paper, it will not be void if a vote is marked: elsewhere than in the proper place by other means than a cross (e.g. a tick) by more than one mark The Returning Officer must write ballot paper that is rejected. They if a counting agent objects to the Returning Officer decision. Need help? Just call us phone numbers can be found on page 8. 6 Recounts The candidate or election agents can ask the Returning 11 Officer to recount the votes 12 The Returning Officer can refuse to recount if they think the request is unreasonable If two or more candidates have the same number of votes, and a The Returning Officer further vote for either would see the candidate elected, the will decide the method Returning Officer must decide between them by drawing lots. of drawing lots. Declaration of results 13 The Returning Officer will declare elected the candidate (or candidates in the case of a multi-seat vacancy) with the most votes 14 The Returning Officer will give public notice of the result. Some Returning Officers allow candidates to make speeches after the result is declared. The Returning Officer will publish a notice with the name 15 of each candidate elected, the number of votes for all Please check arrangements with candidates, and the number of rejected ballot papers. your Returning Officer. Election processes at a local government election in England 7 What happens to the paperwork after the result is announced? The Returning Officer must seal up all election documentation For details of what and add a description of the contents of each packet and happens after the forward them on to the Electoral Registration Officer. result has been announced see: All documents are retained by the Electoral Registration Officer for one year and most are available for public inspection during After the this time. However, ballot papers are one of the documents not declaration of result [link]. open to public inspection. The marked register of electors and absent voters list are available on written request from the Electoral Registration Officer after the election. These documents show who has been issued with a ballot paper in a polling station and who has returned their postal ballot paper, or who has had their proxy vote on their behalf. Contact details for Electoral Registration About My Vote website. The documents can be inspected under supervision free of charge and handwritten notes can be taken. In addition, the marked register of electors and absent voters list can be supplied to referendum agents for a fee of £10 plus £2 for printed and £1 for data versions per 1,000 entries. After 12 months these documents must be destroyed, unless a court order directs otherwise. Need help? Just call us phone numbers can be found on page 8. 8 How we can help You can view our full range of guidance and up-to-date resources on our website. If it's easier, you can also call your local Commission office or email us. We are here to help, so please get in touch. London Tel: 020 7271 0689 Fax: 020 7271 0505 email@example.com Eastern and South East Tel: 020 7271 0600 Fax:020 7271 0505 firstname.lastname@example.org Midlands Tel: 02476 820086 Fax: 02476 820001 email@example.com North of England Tel: 01904 567990 Fax: 01904 567719 firstname.lastname@example.org South West Tel: 01392 314617 Fax: 01392 314001 email@example.com Election processes at a local government election in England 9 Translations and other formats For information on obtaining this publication in another language or in a large-print or Braille version please contact the Electoral Commission: Tel: 020 7271 0500 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Need help? Just call us phone numbers can be found on page 8.