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Council celebrates success of COVID-safe election procedures

Election Counting at Aintree Racecourse's Equestrian Centre
Election Counting at Aintree Racecourse’s Equestrian Centre

Sefton Council has declared its revised, COVID-safe arrangements for the local election a success.

To ensure safety at the Borough’s 132 polling stations and for everyone involved in counting the votes, the Council put a wide range of measure in place.

Postal votes

This included publicising postal votes which resulted in an extra 9,000-plus local residents signing up. This meant that over 28% of those eligible to vote in Sefton were able to do so without needing to visit a polling station.

Numbers signing up for proxy voting so that someone else could attend a polling station for them were also up on previous years.

On election day itself, Sefton Council made sure there were extra staff on hand to help with social distancing and mask wearing. Voters were also asked to bring their own pen or pencil and be prepared for a short wait at busy times.

After polling

After polling closed at 10pm on Thursday evening, over 69,000 ballots in 132 ballot boxes were delivered to the Equestrian Centre at Aintree Racecourse for counting to begin the next day.

Votes were counted at over 132 spaced work stations arranged across the Equestrian Centre in line with a requirement for staff to be two metres apart. All Sefton Council staff working on the count were required to take a rapid COVID test before attending and wore masks. Everyone else attending was also asked to follow these measures.

To help everyone present follow the results, they were displayed on two large screens as well as being added promptly to the Council’s website.

Safety key

Dwayne Johnson, Sefton Council’s Chief Executive and its Returning Officer said: “With COVID-19 safety measures still being key, we knew we would have to revise our arrangements for the whole elections process this year.

“Paramount to all the arrangements was our commitment to ensuring the democratic process went ahead in a way that was safe for everyone involved, which took a lot of detailed planning.

“I would also like to thank everyone who visited a polling station to vote, for following the requirements, even though they sometimes meant voting took a little longer. And a big thanks to all the staff who worked at those polling stations from 7am to 10pm on Thursday.

First time

Mr Johnson explained that, due to COVID, all the Borough’s ballot papers were counted in one place for the first time.

He said: “The logistics of gathering, verifying and counting all Sefton’s ballots in one place were challenging but I am pleased at how well it went, and I would like to thank all the Sefton Council teams involved in making the process successful and safe.

“Although it has been a challenge, I think we have also learnt a lot of useful lessons, some of which we will be able to use to ensure the continued smooth running of the election process in future years.”

Find out more about elections in Sefton.