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The poll

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The poll
Who this document is for
Candidates and agents who want more information on what
happens at polling stations at local elections in England.

The document covers
   who can vote at polling stations
   polling agents
   what happens inside the polling station
   tellers

Related documents
   Election agents
   Guidance on the activities of tellers

   Secrecy requirements



Forms
   Appointment of polling agent




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2
    Introduction
    Who can vote at polling stations?
    Most people choose to vote in person at their polling station. Any
    person on the                 electoral register can vote at the
    polling station, unless:

          they are a registered postal voter
          they are a registered proxy voter and their proxy has
           voted for them
          they are not 18 years old or older on polling day

    Electors will receive a poll card before the election telling them
    where and when to vote. Electors do not need to take their poll
    card to the polling station in order to vote.

    Registered postal voters cannot be issued with a ballot paper at
    the polling station, but they can return their completed postal
    ballot pack to their polling station on polling day. Alternatively,
    they may return their postal vote to other polling stations in the
    local authority. The elections office will be able to provide details.


    Polling station opening hours
    For the elections on 5 May 2011, polling stations will be open on
    that day between 7am and 10pm.


    Finding the location of polling stations
    For the elections on 5 May 2011, Returning Officers will give
    public notice of the location of polling stations by Friday 8 April
    2011. They will give a copy of this notice to election agents soon
    after this.




    Election processes at a local government election in England
                                                                                      3
Polling agents
Candidates can appoint agents to observe proceedings inside
polling stations.

What does a polling agent do?
Polling agents have a number of important roles to play on
polling day. They can:                                               A polling agent is
                                                                     entitled to inspect
    be present in the polling station before the opening of the     various aspects of the
     poll to watch the Presiding Officer show the empty ballot box   polling procedure, but
                                                                     the procedure is not
     before it is sealed                                             invalidated if they
                                                                     have not witnessed it.
    detect personation and prevent people voting more than
     once in the election

    report to the election agent any improper activities and keep    Personation is when an
     notes, if required, for giving evidence in court                 individual votes as
                                                                      someone else (whether
                                                                      that person is living or
    be present when the Presiding Officer marks a ballot paper       dead, or is a fictitious
     at the request of an elector                                     person)


    be present at the close of poll when the various packets of
     documents are sealed

    attach their seal to any packets made up by the Presiding
     Officer at the close of poll, including the ballot box          cannot be attached
                                                                     to ballot boxes at the
                                                                     start of or during the
Who can be a polling agent?                                          poll.

Anyone, apart from officials employed by the Returning Officer,
can be appointed as a polling agent. An election agent can
themselves act as a polling agent.

A person can be appointed as a polling agent and an agent to
attend other proceedings, ie the opening of postal votes or the
count. For more information on those, please see the relevant
guidance documents on our website.




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    How to appoint polling agents
    The request to appoint polling 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 polling agents can be appointed?
    The election agent can appoint any number of polling agents to
    attend each polling station.

    Any agent can be appointed to attend more than one polling
    station, but only one polling agent for each candidate can be
    present in a polling station at any time.


    Secrecy of the ballot
    Agents have a duty to maintain the secrecy of the ballot. In
    particular, polling agents must not give information to anyone as
    to:

           who has or has not voted
        
           the official mark on the ballot paper
                                                                          For more information
    A polling agent can mark off on their copy of the register of
                                                                          see:
    electors those voters who have applied for ballot papers. If the
    polling agent leaves the polling station during the hours of           Secrecy
    polling, they must leave the marked copy of the register in the         requirements
    polling station to ensure that secrecy requirements are not
    breached.

    Any person found guilty of breaching the secrecy requirements
    can face a fine of up to £5,000, or may be imprisoned for up to
    six months.



    Election processes at a local government election in England
                                                                                    5
Inside the polling station
What is the normal voting process?
The normal voting process at a polling station is straightforward
and can be summarised as follows:


                                                                      On 5 May 2011, the
                                                                      local election may be
                                                                      combined with
    ask voters to confirm their name and address, and make           another election or
     sure they are eligible to vote                                   referendum. In that
                                                                      case, polling station
                                                                      staff will be issuing
                                                   on the            the required number
       register of electors                                           of additional ballot
                                                                      papers.
    call out the number and name of the elector
                                                                      Different electoral
    write the elector number on the corresponding number list        events may have
     next to the number of the ballot paper(s) to be issued           different franchise
                                                                      requirements, so
                                                                      sometimes an
    ensure the ballot paper(s) include the official mark (e.g. a
                                                                      elector will not be
     barcode or watermark)
                                                                      entitled to vote at all
                                                                      of the polls taking
    fold the ballot paper(s) then hand them to the voter             place.
     unfolded so they can see all of the options on the ballot
     paper(s)                                                         Also, a single ballot
                                                                      box may be used for
                                                                      all of the contests or
                                                                      one ballot box may
                                                                      be used for each
                                                                      separate contest.

    mark the ballot paper(s) in private in the polling booth

    fold the ballot paper(s) and show the ballot paper number
     and unique identifying mark on the back of the ballot
     paper(s) to the Presiding Officer

    place the ballot paper(s) in the ballot box(es)




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    Assistance is available for anyone who cannot mark the ballot
    paper themselves.


    Collection of postal ballots from the polling
    station
    The Returning Officer may arrange for the collection of any
    postal votes that electors have handed in at polling stations. The
    Presiding Officer must seal any postal votes in a packet before
    they are collected. Any agents present can add their own seal to
    the packet if they wish.

    What happens after polls close?
    The ballot boxes are sealed and the election and polling agents
    can add their own seal if they wish.




    Election processes at a local government election in England
                                                                                   7
Tellers
What is the role of tellers?
Tellers are the people who stand outside polling places and
record the electoral numbers of electors who have voted.
                                                                    The Returning Officer
They can then identify likely supporters who have not voted and     is in charge of the
encourage them to vote before the close of poll.                    conduct of the
                                                                    election. If they are
                                                                    concerned by the
Tellers have no legal status and voters do have the right to        activities of tellers,
refuse to give information to them.                                 they can ask tellers to
                                                                    comply with agreed
We have produced a                                      , as well   behaviour or leave
                                                                    the polling place.
as more comprehensive guidance on the activities of tellers. The
guidance aims to ensure that everyone knows precisely what is
and what is not acceptable and to promote appropriate
standards of conduct.




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    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
    london@electoralcommission.org.uk

    Eastern and South East
    Tel: 020 7271 0600
    Fax:020 7271 0505
    easternandsoutheast@electoralcommission.org.uk

    Midlands
    Tel: 02476 820086
    Fax: 02476 820001
    midlands@electoralcommission.org.uk

    North of England
    Tel: 01904 567990
    Fax: 01904 567719
    north@electoralcommission.org.uk

    South West
    Tel: 01392 314617
    Fax: 01392 314001
    southwest@electoralcommission.org.uk




    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: publications@electoralcommission.org.uk




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