FENLANDER: Elections team leader talks of the huge effort to run next week’s polls

FOR most people elections are simple: come the day, you just pop along to your local polling station, cast your vote and go home.

Things are very different for those responsible for running next Thursday’s polls.

Jo Anderson is Fenland District Council’s elections team leader. Their preparations began way back in January. These elections are far more complicated than they were for last year’s parliamentary elections, says Jo.

“A General Election is big and well publicised but it’s comparatively straightforward,” she said. “In 2010 there was one election, with seven candidates, one lot of postal votes and one lot of ballots.

“This time we have 38 contested seats in the district elections, with up to nine candidates in each, and there are 21 areas covered at the town/parish level of elections.

“On top of all that there is the national referendum on the alternative vote – the first referendum for 30 years.”

For each of those, there’s a mass of preliminary work – including, for example, sorting out poll cards and postal votes and all the nominations, all of which have to be carefully checked. And there are countless inquiries from councillors, candidates, agents, parish clerks and the public.

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On polling day itself, Jo will be at Fenland Hall by 6.30am. She and her colleagues will be on hand throughout the day to ensure everything goes smoothly at all the 54 polling stations

After a two-hour break at about 5pm, she’ll be back in the office until the polls close at 10pm. Then it’s off to the Hudson Leisure Centre in Wisbech to get all the votes validated - a painstaking process that could last until 3am.

“When that’s done, I’ll go home and try to get a few hours’ sleep before heading back to the Hudson for the actual count, starting at 9.30am on Friday,” she said.

And at the end of the day the Hudson has to be cleared up so it can open for normal business on Saturday morning.

Altogether, more than 200 Fenland District Council staff will be involved over the two long days, ensuring that the democratic process is properly carried out. They know how much it matters.

As Jo says: “Part of the reason I vote now is because I know just how much work goes into giving me that democratic right. I realise how important it is and how hard this country works to make it possible. When you think of other countries, we’re very lucky. No one should take it for granted.”

• Polling stations will be open next Thursday (May 5) from 7am-10pm.

Details of all the candidates in the district, town and parish council elections can be found on FDC’s website, on http://www.fenland.gov.uk/article/3010/Notice-of-Poll