Voting in a pandemic
Sarah Cope, Business Development Manager
04 May 2021
It has been a long year living through the COVID19 pandemic with all sorts of events and gathering being cancelled nationally and internationally. Last year’s local, mayoral and Police Commissioner elections, due to take place in May 2020 was one of the most notable cancellations, and for that reason it was almost unthinkable that the upcoming May 2021 would be again.
The moment confirmation of the elections taking place on 6 May dropped, Elections teams along with Health & Safety teams up and down the country kicked into action. On top of the usual arrangements needing to be made, the Health and Safety teams have carried out COVID risk assessments and completed reports. These assessments have taken into consideration one-way systems, sanitising stations, social distancing measures and even asking voters to bring their own pens.
What if I am isolating or have symptoms?
The Government announced emergency proxy voting measures for those who are self-isolating because of Coronavirus. The legislation allows:
- All those who are unable to attend a polling station as a result of COVID-19, including those who are shielding, to appoint a proxy beyond the usual deadline.
- All those with an existing proxy arrangement to appoint a new proxy up until 17:00 on polling day if their proxy is affected by COVID-19 and are unable to act as a proxy.
From the local government press release (23/02/21) https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/voting-person-post-or-proxy/voting-post
This means those who are self-isolating, test positive or have symptoms can still have their say without leaving their homes.
There have been many discussions held in our South East Health and Safety network meeting around plans and risk assessments. The more interesting, and harder to answer questions have been around ‘what if someone who is symptomatic turns up and wants to vote’ what do we do? What if someone refuses to wear a face mask/Shield’ etc. Council Legal teams have advised that everyone has the right to vote, so polling station employees are going to have to be prepared for anything and everything on the day.
Elections plans must also cover the counting of votes. To combat problems of oversubscribed counts some of our councils are counting over an extended number of days to cut down the amount of people present at any one time in the counting venue, while others have hired larger venues than usual.
In you are planning to vote in person, consider the following:
- Take your own pen or pencil
- Wear a mask or face shield unless exempt (polling stations will have a supply of these if you forget)
- Take disposable gloves
- Use hand sanitiser (this should be available at your polling station)
- Observe social distancing and signage
Social distancing will be operation and must be adhered to so,
- Polling station staff will not handle polling cards
- You may need to queue, be prepared
Polling station staff will
- Wear a face mask or shield
- Use screens where appropriate
- Wipe down surfaces between voters
Get in touch
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