Covid-secure voting to be ready for May 2021 elections
- Credit: Archant
Voters in Suffolk’s elections next year are being reassured that measures will be in place for safe voting in light of Covid-19.
The whole of the county will be casting votes in the May 2021 elections for Suffolk County Council and the police and crime commissioner, as well as polls for a third of Ipswich Borough Council and a handful of by-elections for district seats.
While it is not yet clear what the Covid-19 situation will be like then, election co-ordinators have said that those who do not feel they can vote in person can still exercise their vote by proxy voting or postal ballot.
MORE: What elections are planned for May 2021 in Suffolk?Proxy voting is where a nominated person can be registered on a voter’s behalf to cast a vote for them, while postal ballots also mean people can cast their vote without having to attend a polling station.
Preparations are also underway for Covid-secure voting at polling stations with floor markings for two metres, screens and hand sanitiser stations likely to be included.
Stephen Baker, East Suffolk Council’s electoral registration officer, said: “The elections next year are very important and an opportunity for residents to have a say on who represents them on issues that directly affect day-to-day life in Suffolk.
“Regardless of how you choose to cast your vote in May, you will be able to do so safely.
“We are already preparing for this in line with current guidelines, which means you can expect many of the same measures you’ve become used to in the shops over recent months, such as hand sanistiser, floor markings and face coverings.
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“However, should the guidelines change prior to the elections, we are prepared to take the necessary steps to meet these.
“There is also an option to vote by post or by proxy and we are currently contacting some members in our communities to highlight the option to vote by post.”
Anyone wishing to vote by post or by proxy will need to register to do so with their local council beforehand.
The PCC and Ipswich Borough Council elections were due to take place this year but were pushed back a year because of the pandemic, while the county council polls are set to take place in May 2021 as scheduled.
MORE: 2020 elections delayed to 2021 due to Covid-19It is not yet clear if the PCC and Ipswich elections will be for three-year terms instead of the usual four, in order to bring the polls back in line with the timescale they should have been on.
Chief executive of Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils, Arthur Charvonia, added: “We are contacting sections of our communities to make them aware of a range of absent voting options for the 2021 elections.
“There are several elections planned across the districts including at least five parish elections.
“We want to ensure that no-one loses their right to vote because they may be wary of attending polling stations in person. There are other ways to be part of the process.”
Ian Gallin, electoral registration officer and chief executive at West Suffolk Council, said: "We're preparing for these elections now so that, however you choose to cast your vote in May, you can do so safely.
"We're putting arrangements in place to help you stay safe at the polling station where you'll find the kind of measures we've become used to such as hand sanistiser, floor markings and face masks.
"But you also have the option to apply to vote by post or by proxy.
"We will be sending postal vote application forms in the post to West Suffolk's older and more vulnerable residents who are on the electoral register but do not have a postal vote.
"I hope we can reassure and encourage everyone to take part in the May 6 2021 elections."