.On May the 5th all those with local elections in England will also have to contend with the Fairer Votes referendum. This combined poll affects the postal vote operation.
The first thing to be aware of is that the electorate for both polls are different.
The Fairer Votes Referendum are using largely the parliamentary franchise but to be specific, those who will receive a postal vote for the referendum are as follows:

  • people who have made a specific application to vote by post at the referendum, and this application has been granted
  • people who are on the standing postal voters list (definite/indefinite period) to vote at a UK Parliamentary election, or
  • people who are entitled to vote in the referendum and in a poll that is taken together with the referendum and are included on the postal voters list for that poll.

This third bullet point is the one that has the most scope for confusion, as it means that people who are registered to have a postal vote in a council election only will only receive a postal vote for the referendum if they have local elections on the same day – this particularly affects people in London and those unitaries and districts that don’t have council elections this year, such as Cornwall, Shropshire, Northumberland, Wiltshire, Oxford, Gosport and Cheltenham (and a number of others). However most local postal voters in these circumstances will be registered for a parliamentary elections and be covered bullet point 2

For the local elections, it is just the local electors who have applied for a postal votes as usual.

The biggest difference between the two is electors from EU countries, “G” on the register, who have not chosen to vote in UK parliamentary and EU elections but still can vote in local elections. In some urban areas this may be a high percentage.

The timetable for the issuing ballot papers is the same as for the local elections but you’ll need to check with your Returning Officer on what is being done in your local area.

Unfortunately for us giving national guidance, the Electoral Commissions instructions allow returning officers to decide whether and how the postal votes for these two polls will be combined.Some Returning officers are:
a) sending both ballot papers out in one pack,¬† with one return envelope and one statement of identity. This sounds (and may be) sensible but is complicated by the different electorates. Some are combining the two ballot papers and “voiding” the papers that should not be used by an individual elector. This could be confusing to electors!! but saves on postage.
b) Others may be sending out the forms in separate envelopes.
It is vital that you check what is happening in your area so that you can advise electors, both in an “how to” insert in your postal voter target mail and in person¬† when on the doorstep.
If you come across options radically different from those described above please let us know.

The Electoral Commission has issued guidance that clarifies who will receive a postal vote for the AV referendum in May, which you can download from their website here.

JB 24/3/11



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