The elections due to take place on 6 May 2021 have the added complexity of being conducted during a pandemic.
The County Returning Officer is in regular contact with Deputy Returning Officers and Electoral Leads in all the Council areas to try to make the election as Covid secure as possible for those attending the polling stations, those who attend the verification and count and the election staff themselves. As would be expected, that means that the arrangements at the various election sites will be different to those encountered in previous years and the Covid safety measures in place across the Districts themselves are likely to vary as the buildings are all different in terms of capacity, space and layout, for example.
At the polling stations the numbers of voters inside the building will be monitored and controlled so that 2 metre social distancing can be observed. Voters will also be encouraged to wear face coverings both for their own peace of mind and to protect the polling station staff.
Tellers will be asked to stay socially distanced from voters entering and exiting the polling stations and will not be allowed inside the polling station. If polling agents wish to enter the polling station to enquire about the numbers of voters who have voted at that particular station they must join the queue of voters. If polling agents do enter the polling station, again, they will be encouraged to wear face coverings and maintain 2 metre social distancing.
At the verification following the close of poll on 6 May 2021 and the count on 7 May 2021, candidates and one other person (the candidates’ counting agent) will be allowed to attend in order to satisfy themselves that due process is being followed. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer refreshments to candidates and their guest so they are asked to bring their own supplies.
As these sites will have a large number of staff working at the same location at relatively close quarters they will be wearing face coverings and in some instances will be working behind clear plastic screens, depending on the environmental health risk assessment for the site.
In addition, the Deputy Returning Officers, who will be in charge of the count sites, will be asking their Environmental Health Officers to attend to try to ensure the relevant precautions are being observed. As with the polling stations we expect everyone to wear a face covering and maintain 2 metre social distancing so far as is practicable.
Whilst risk assessments will have been carried out and reasonable steps will be taken to minimise the spread of the coronavirus, this election is going to be a large-scale event that will have increased risks associated with the increased social interaction. We will be urging everyone to take responsibility for their own safety and to respect everyone else, especially the election staff who will be working long hours to deliver a fair election, by following the measures I have mentioned in this guidance.
I hope this gives you a good level of reassurance.
County Returning Officer