As the contests for seats at the National Assembly for Wales and for changes to the voting system draw to a conclusion on Thursday 5th May, spare a thought for the huge amount of preparation and effort needed to run these events. Monmouthshire County Council’s task has been even greater on this occasion with the two ballots taking place on the same day and just nine weeks since the last referendum, held on 3rd March.
Monmouthshire’s electorate is 64,857, of which 9,659 have opted for postal votes. These postal votes need to be issued in time for return before the close of poll and several sessions need to be organized for the issue and opening of these votes.
For those people who don’t vote by post, we need to find and book 90 venues for use as polling stations. They need to be in the right location, accessible to all voters no matter their age or mobility, and available at a reasonable cost. As the polling stations serve their local communities, the size of the electorate ranges quite a bit. Our largest deals with up to 2,280 voters and our smallest has a mere 72 voters.
We have also had to find 90 people to act as presiding officers and take change of these stations on the day from 7am to 10pm. Most presiding officers have one poll clerk to assist them, but problems in English elections in the past have increased the numbers of poll clerks in some larger stations to two or three. As a result we now have 126 poll clerks. That's a total of 216 staff, all of whom have to be trained.
In addition, polling stations will be visited by one of six inspectors, who will ensure that the processes are sound and secure and can advise on minor problems. When the poll closes the ballot boxes and other documents and equipment need to be returned to County Hall, where the Assembly count will take place on Thursday night and the Referendum count on Friday afternoon.
This involves staff receiving and recording the paperwork and other items returned and transferring the ballot boxes and ballot paper accounts to the Assembly Hall where the count takes place in the full view of the media, candidates and party agents. It will take 48 counting assistants and eight supervisors to go through the boxes, and to separate, verify and count the papers. This is inevitably a slow process where accuracy is paramount and the complexity of three ballot papers means it is unlikely to conclude much before dawn! And then back at 4pm to do it again for the Referendum. We will update the web site and send regular tweets throughout both counts.
Finally, when the dust has settled, we need to settle all the bills, arrange collection and storage of all the documents and equipment, prepare accounts for submission to the Electoral Commission and then start on preparations for the annual canvass.