Clacton: Council ‘will be ready’ for polling day

Ballot box.

Ballot box. - Credit: PA

Although officially the writ announcing the Clacton by-election has not been set, town hall officials are already gearing up to make sure the nuts and bolts are in place in time for a potential October 9 polling day.

Tendring District Council, which will oversee voting on the day, is preparing to send out polling cards to the 70,000-odd voters – and ballot papers to more than 10,000 postal voters – that make up the Clacton constituency.

Added to this the electoral registration team are stepping up their efforts after the summer’s switch to individual voter registration to make sure everyone who wants to cast their X can do, and booking the 57 or so polling stations used in the constituency.

To help ensure everything runs smoothly the authority has already moved additional staff from other functions to help the elections team, and the service is looking to finalise the more than 200 staff who will work on polling day itself doing everything from clerking the stations, ferrying the ballot boxes and counting the votes.

Deputy acting returning officer Martyn Knappett is encouraging people to register as soon as possible if they want to vote in the upcoming election, and is urging them to do so online.

He said: “People can still register, there is still time, but people need to get on with it certainly this weekend.

“It only takes three minutes online and all you need is your name, address and National Insurance number. We would steer people towards that as we are pretty busy, but if people want to send the paper forms in we of course accept them.

“I had a meeting planned for tomorrow (Wednesday) with the elections officer anyway to look at the May 2015 elections because we do look this early in advance, so this gives a sense of the hill we have to climb.

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“But we are calm, confident, and looking forward to it.

“It will remain business as usual at the council, but it will have an impact as people are taken off other duties to help out.

“We have great support from schools, village hall people and parish councils to get polling stations ready, everyone mucks in as they recognise it is for the good of the community and democracy. There will be a polling station in every area.”

But as Mr Knappett explains it is still all provisional.

He added: “October 9 is the earliest Thursday it could be, and we are provisionally working to that date.

“But the actual date is up to the returning officer, no-one else.

“We get the writ the following day, and then we have got between 21 and 27 days in which to hold the election. If there are two Thursday’s we chose between them, and we could technically break with more than 100 years of tradition and choose a different day of the week – but we won’t.”