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Statutory Review of Polling Districts and Polling Places

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4. Criteria for polling places and polling districts

The Electoral Commission has set out guidance to assist in assessing the current arrangements and any proposals for change. As part of the assessment of the suitability of polling district boundaries, the following should be considered:

  • Are the boundaries well defined? For example, Do they follow the natural boundaries of the areas? If not, is it clear which properties belong in the polling district?
  • Are there suitable transport links within the polling district, and how do they relate to the areas of the district that are most highly populated? Are there any obstacles to voters crossing the current polling district and reaching the polling place e.g. steep hills, impassable major roads, railway lines, rivers?

There are also a number of factors that must be considered when reviewing existing polling places or assessing new polling places, including:

  • The location: is it reasonably accessible within the polling district? Does it avoid barriers for the voter such as steep hills, major roads, rivers, etc.?  Are there any convenient transport links?
  • Size: if required, can the polling place accommodate more than one polling station? If multiple polling stations are required, is the polling place large enough to accommodate all voters going into and out of the polling stations, even where there is a high turnout?
  • Suitability: is the building readily available in the event of any unscheduled elections? Is there any possibility that the building may be demolished as part of a new development? Is the building accessible to all those entitled to attend the polling place?

The Electoral Commission recognises that the choice of polling station will often be a balance between the quality of the building, in terms of access and facilities, and the proximity of the building to the electors it is intended to serve; and that there may be circumstances, were the polling place might fall wholly or partly outside the polling district because suitable alternatives are not available in the relevant area.

Although it is Council policy to avoid the use of schools where possible, there may be locations where there are no other suitable premises in the area. For the purposes of elections, the (Acting) Returning Officer is entitled to use schools maintained or assisted by a local authority, as well as those schools that receive grants made up of monies provided by Parliament, free of charge subject to covering the cost of heating, lighting and caretaking charges.  

In conducting this review it is proposed that, as far as possible, no more than 2,500 voters should be assigned to a polling station at local elections in order to minimise the risk of long queues. It should be noted that the number of postal voters in each polling district is a relevant consideration in this regard.  In the event of a combined and/or Parliamentary Election, given more complex arrangements and higher voter turnout, it may be necessary to review these numbers. In all circumstances, consideration is given to whether a polling place is capable of accommodating more than one polling station, if necessary.

Presiding Officers are encouraged to make comments and observations regarding the suitability of polling stations to which they are allocated, along with Polling Station Inspectors who will visit polling stations during the May 2024 elections. Any comments will be taken into account when conducting the review.