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.
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