The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact our daily lives and, with local elections taking place across the country in May, will present unique challenges for Returning Officers (RO), Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) and their teams as they prepare to deliver COVID-secure polls.
To support councils and local election staff in managing these challenges, we have developed a detailed risk assessment template to help plan and deliver COVID-secure elections on 6 May 2021.
The Local Elections – COVID-19 Risk Assessment includes advice and an editable checklist regarding the below risk factors associated with managing local election polls:
Local election supply chain
This includes contacting your providers to ensure capacity and arranging appropriate contingency plans. These third-party providers could include:
- Printers of poll cards, postal votes and ballot papers
- Royal Mail
- Postal vote mailing system
- Any other election equipment suppliers
- Logistics suppliers (e.g. equipment delivery)
Local election venues
This section of the risk assessment template covers the polling station that is to be used for the local elections, providing a checklist for activities such as:
- Have you made a booking enquiry of the existing venue(s) and is it available for the by-election?
- Have you plans in place for back-up venues?
- Are there any other activities taking place in the venue?
- Is the venue big enough to accommodate social distancing measures?
- Will the venue allow the use of floor markings required to maintain social distancing?
- Have you considered how you can increase ventilation where it is possible and safe to do so?
Workforce protection and planning
This section deals with considerations you should take regarding the staff working at the polling station. These considerations include:
- Your ability to fully staff all positions
- Having procedures in place for staff who are vulnerable or at risk
- Having reserve staff in place in case of unplanned absences
- Contingency plans for the absence of senior election staff
The voting-in-person process
This checklist outlines the considerations that should be taken to ensure the process for voting in person is COVID-secure, for example:
- Do you have a procedure document describing the voting process which incorporates social distancing rules?
- Have you made an assessment of the maximum number of people to be permitted to each polling place / polling station queue at any one time?
- Are pens or pencils to be provided and will voters be asked to bring their own if possible?
- How many compartments of the polling booth will be made available to use?
- Do you have a procedure in place for cleaning the building and polling equipment initially, throughout use and at the end of use?
- Have you ensured that hand washing facilities are present?
- Will voters be asked to wear face coverings?
Our risk assessment also includes a checklist to ensure the process of counting votes is COVID-secure and considerations regarding the communication of your health and safety procedures to electors, candidates and the local media.
We also have a range of other free risk assessments for town and parish councils, which you can view here: https://www.bhibcouncils.co.uk/risk-assessment-templates/