9th April 2018
Election Day draws near
So as Returning Officer you’ve checked your insurance (and excess), your planning and risk register has been reviewed and discussed endlessly and reflects where you and your elections team actually are, you’ve considered capacity and resilience and satisfied yourself personally you are OK (and have contingency arrangements in place anyway), so what is the last minute stuff you should do?
Well, don’t stop doing any of the above! But think about what’s you role in this? On the day, visiting polling stations?
What about the count? Be visible, show leadership. Pace yourself too. Are the candidates and agents briefed in full, ensure any that didn’t attend have been sent everything? Media?
Depending upon who is standing and the level of media interest, think around how and who will manage the media for you.
Are there any “purdah” (wrong word but you know what I mean) issues brewing? Who is dealing? If you and you are the Returning Officer, do you need to consider distancing yourself at this point?
When you have an election query, question or issue, who are you going to call (not I would suggest on this occasion “Ghostbusters”).
It is a legal process, so follow the law. The conduct rules for each poll lay out what you do and when. You can’t depart from the law. But it also protects you. It is your sword and shield.
DO bear in mind Section 46 Electoral Administration Act 2006 – the power for the Returning Officer to correct an error or omission by them, their staff or their contractors (eg printers). It is a powerful provision but consider its use with care. Consider what you do if you think you do have a problem with care. Taker a little time and take advice.
In simple terms, the law requires that for a legal challenge against a Returning Officer to succeed, there must have substantial non-compliance with the rules and that that non- compliance has affected the result. It is a high, lethal hurdle. And then there’s the funding question.
Finally, bear in mind it’s not just what you do but how you do it. Confidence and leadership are required even when you think “Houston, we have a problem”. They did have a problem, but they got Apollo 13 and the 3 astronauts back safely.
Don’t panic if you do have a problem, talk to the team, talk to your contacts, look up the law, remember the provisions that are there to help.
By Mark Heath, Solace spokesperson for Elections and Democratic Renewal