Election Day

"Vote early and vote often"

As you read this post, up and down the country people will be flocking to the polls and casting their votes. They might be voting in elections for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments or the Northern Irish Assembly. They might be voting in local government elections or they might be voting in a referendum on AV. They might be doing all three.

However, no matter which election they’ll be voting in one thing will be the same across the nation: the whole process will be facilitated by staff from your local authority.

It started early this morning as a small army of local authority workers set off to prepare the school halls, doctors surgeries, community halls and council buildings that serve as polling stations. They will start working at 6:30am and finish at 10pm when the responsible officer in each polling station will ensure that the sealed ballot boxes are delivered to the counting hall.

In many authorities another tribe of officers will be there at 10pm to count the votes as they come in, many working until early into the next morning to make sure democracy runs its proper course in a timely manner.

Now, let us not pretend this is done purely out of the goodness of our hearts. Staff get paid extra to (wo)man the polling stations and count the votes and then in some authorities get a day off to recover free of charge. Nonetheless, it is a really long day for everyone involved and without these dedicated staff nothing would happen at all.

And behind it all will be the strange staff who man our electoral services team. Electoral services tend to be one of those teams you don’t notice all year round. They lock themselves in their own offices (because the work they do is way too important to be subject to normal open plan niceties) and often work very strange hours: doing 15 hour days in the run up to elections and then being hard to find immediately after each election as they lock themselves in a dark room to recover.

Like many of the best teams in local government you’d only notice them if they weren’t there but on a day to day basis you probably don’t appreciate them.

So on this election day, I salute the electoral services team and all those working on polling stations or counting booths wherever you may be.

And if you are reading this and are not a local government employee (or even if you are), when you go to vote please give a nice smile and kind word to the staff working in the polling station.

Remember, you’d miss them if they weren’t there.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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5 Comments on “Election Day”

  1. LG Worker Says:

    “Flocking” – really? I hope people do flock but fear this may be a low turnout.

    However, I completely back your salute (not just because I’ve been one of those counters).

  2. J.G.Harston Says:

    I saw the dawn as I /left/ the count 🙂

    ….then found I’d left my car headlights on for the last 7 hours 😦

  3. Louise Says:

    I’d say “flocking” isn’t too far off. My polling station was busy nearly all day, with about 600 people through the doors.

    It’s more accurate to say that we stop work at 10.30pm, since the Presiding Officer (in charge of the station) has to fill in all the election paperwork, ensure the station is clean and tidy, and then transport the ballot box plus the paperwork back to the count.

    Note to the marvellous public of Britain: Your politeness, cheerfulness and interest in the democratic process was a joy to behold. And in answer to the question all of you asked: “Yes, we have been quite busy”. (!)

  4. […] casual observers of this blog will know that we were big election day supporters of the local government staff who worked such long hours to ensure that last week’s elections went off without […]

  5. Ed Hammond Says:

    I do it at my former authority, which means a 45-minute cross-London trip to get to my station at 4.45am. I’m not sure I’m going to do it again!

    The two most popular questions/comments –

    1) “What’s the turnout like?”
    2) “The ballot box looks like a shredder – ha ha ha”

    We had around seven hundred people out of a total electorate of 3000 (not counting postal votes) which I thought was pretty good.

    Kudos is due to electoral services staff and their ability to quickly answer my many stupid questions on the day when I was worried that I might have to issue someone with a tendered ballot.

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