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Solace blog

28th April 2017

11 things every Returning Officer needs to know

The 11 things Returning Officers need to do for May (and June):

1. Be clear of your roles and responsibilities a Returning Officer

Your role is independent of Council and you will pick up the consequences of that role, including criminal and civil liability. Have you got insurance cover? What is your excess (please check it all)? Be aware of day job issues conflicting with your RO role.

2. Local context

Consider: what are the local political issues? What changes might there be in the capacity and resilience within the core team and council? Know what your team are doing and when. Are you a new or experienced RO? Your ESM?

3. Impact of other things (locally / other elections)

What else might impact on the smooth running of your election and how can you mitigate against it?

4. Funding – fees and charges order and guidance (for UKPGE)

Make sure you understand all potential funding issues – funding comes from different sources for different elections, and you will need to have a budget plan.

5. Planning – systems et al

Plan for what you can in advance. This includes A project plan, a risk register, regular contact and liaison with your team. Plan how you will engage but also how you will pace yourself and the team from now till polling day (or days!).

Are your IT systems all OK?

Make sure you access and make use of guidance (EC).

Ensure you have consistency and clarity – what is your role at the Count? What is the system for checking ballot papers, contents of ballot boxes – don’t forget that’s its check, check, check… check 3 times!

And communicate, communicate, communicate!

6. Involvement – yours, when and how

Be sure of your involvement at key points – nominations, polling day, the count etc. – and also any key crunch points e.g. E-11/12, use of call centre staff, those last 5 days before the register is published.

7. Legal requirements-compliance

You will need to be fully aware of the legal regime – it is a legal regime. For example, the basic requirements around ballot papers and printing.

8. Advice, support, contacts

Ensure you have access to any advice you may need and when you need it. Who is on your mobile? Legal advisor, EC, RO colleagues…..? (Solace can help with this)

9. Not just what you do but how……

Some refereeing /diplomacy skills may be required! Also, you may need to put yourself in harm’s way.

I recommend briefings for Candidates and Agents. In fact, I suggest two: one pre-nominations, one pre-polling day.

As before, be sure you’re aware of local issues, candidates standing, etc.

10. Media planning and management

How will you liaise with the media? How will you monitor social media?

I recommend two times for action:

– At the close of nominations, release information on who is standing. Have a pack with lots of background ready to add the names to.

– Pre-polling day and count – share information on the polling stations, the timetable, and plan etc.

Give the media plenty of background information – feed the beast – help them produce content, so: the number of polling stations, how you will approach doubtful ballot papers (ECs guidance), previous results, anything!

Perhaps consider a technical briefing for the media – the technicians will appreciate it!

11. Governance

You need to be watertight on how you run the project, how you ensure it is done right, how you know the system is
working and that you have systemic checking etc. in place and embedded.
And good luck!