Holding an election is always a complex undertaking, however the prospect of an election in December brings a whole new set of logistical considerations and challenges for local authorities.
It is a relatively short period of time between the notice of election and polling day on Thursday 12th December within which to make the necessary arrangements. However the likelihood of a UK Parliamentary Election being called had been building for some time and was an eventuality that Neath Port Talbot Council’s electoral services team has been monitoring and planning for throughout the autumn.
Elections in the United Kingdom are not usually held during the winter months and one key reason for this is the potential for severe weather to disrupt or complicate the delivery of proceedings.
For example snowfall, particularly in more isolated rural locations, may make it difficult not only for those wishing to vote but also for polling station staff, or even the building key holders, to get to that location.
There are 105 polling stations across the two parliamentary constituencies – Aberavon and Neath – which cover the county borough and the Council will of course endeavour to do its utmost to prepare these locations for polling day. However our statutory duty to undertake gritting on the priority routes in our winter maintenance plan remains and requires the authority to allocate its finite resources appropriately.
However there are options available for those who have concerns that they may have difficulties attending a polling station to vote in person, particularly if the weather is poor on Election day.
One such option is a postal vote in which voters complete and return by post a Postal Voting Statement form and, in a sealed ballot-paper envelope, their marked ballot paper. Both are returned in a larger prepaid envelope which is also provided.
Another option is proxy voting. A ‘proxy’ is someone who is appointed by you to vote on your behalf at an election, so to vote by proxy you must first find someone who is willing to attend your polling station and cast your vote on your behalf.
Firstly however, you must be registered to vote. If you are not registered you can’t vote. The quickest and easiest way to register to vote is online.
Alternatively people can contact Electoral Services if they wish to register by telephone or in person.
There is still time plenty of time to register, but the sooner the better. The deadline for registration and postal votes is 5pm on Tuesday 26th November and for proxies 5pm on Wednesday 4th December. You will need to provide your National Insurance number when registering to vote.
Whilst a ‘worst-case’ weather scenario might not happen, it is something that we must all continue to plan for until closer to the time when more accurate forecasts are available.
Returning Officer for the Aberavon and Neath constituencies