The committee room is the HQ of your polling day operation where everything is run from.
Winning teams plan their polling days with plenty of time to spare – that’s why today’s advice article is about getting your committee rooms right and doing so as soon as possible.
We’ve got some downloadable tools for you:
- Your committee room checklist
- Your committee room sign (legal necessity)
- Your election offences poster (legal necessity)
- Instructions for tellers
WHAT FEATURES SHOULD A GOOD COMMITTEE ROOM INCLUDE?
The ideal committee room would be spacious, warm, have a phone line and WiFi, lots of private parking and be near the polling station. In practice, of course, that is hard to achieve. There are several factors which are important and may need balancing against each other.
The committee room should be as central to the polling stations it is covering as possible. However, it’s probably more important for it to be accessible for people to get to during the day. Ideally, it should have good parking nearby and it is also sensible to take account of any traffic congestion hot-spots which might make access difficult at the important hours of 4-7pm.
You will need good mobile reception and good WiFi, as well as a backup. These days lots of people with smartphones will be able to create mobile WiFi hotspots – so you’ll need to check that someone in the building has one. You can also buy portable WiFi dongles to use in the event of problems on the day. Try and buy one which uses a different provider than the WiFi system in case one goes down – this has happened before.
Facilities for making hot and cold drinks are essential. There’s often a problem when using members’ homes as committee rooms that people think their main purpose is to feed the activists continually throughout the day. Whilst food and hospitality is always welcome, it doesn’t get votes in the ballot box, so it’s best to get items that people can snack on whilst waiting for their next round of knocking-up.
A poster detailing the election offences should be displayed.
If possible arrange the furniture in your committee room so that there is a “reception and dispatch” area for activists being given/returning from knocking-up. There should be another separate area for the administration of the polling day operation.
Be clear with the committee room owner about what’s going to be happening on the day so as to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
THE ESSENTIAL ‘BIG COMMITTEE ROOM BOX’
It is vitally important to have a check-list of committee room items. This should be supplied to the committee room – in a box with all the items – the evening before.
At the end of polling day you can put everything, including all the paper etc, in the box. This will allow you to sort through afterwards for useful information like postal votes needed and people canvassed incorrectly.
ORGANISING A WIDER AREA
You will likely be running a committee room dealing with voters over several polling stations. The main thing is to make quite sure that all the different paper connected with the different polling stations are kept quite distinct.
By the time you get to polling day you’ll be tired out so to avoid making silly mistakes you need to plan everything and clearly label and colour code your work.
Shuttleworthsshould be physically separated, and each Shuttleworth Pad coded with the polling district letter, and preferably the location of the polling station (for drivers’ benefits).
- Tellers pads should be different colours, and each sheet coded at the top with the P.D. letters and/or polling station.
- Car calls slips should include the polling station.
Very often, competent committee room controllers, well-versed in the intricacies of pollcraft and capable of organising the workforce, are in short supply. So, where wards have more than one polling district it is quite common to combine them in one committee room.
It also enables the committee room controller to move help from one area to another without the hassle of complicated phone calls, central phoning in and so on. Very large wards will probably compromise and group polling districts in a number of different committee rooms.
WHAT IF WE HAVE MORE THAN ONE COMMITTEE ROOM?
Where more than one committee room is in use in an area – a ward, constituency, district, or whatever the overall unit of operation may be – it is essential that there is a degree of central coordination, and that workers and cars are willing to move to other places if in the interests of the party.
A hierarchy should be absolutely clear on the day with one person taking the final decision for strategy (shutting down wards and moving away, where to target knock up efforts etc). Pre agreeing who is in charge can save heartache on the day.
Look at these key facts to make decisions:
- The proportion of the ward knocked up at the relevant stage (first, second, etc)
- Statistics on Liberal Democrat performance (how much of our support has turned out? how much of the oppositions support has turned out? How does this compare with previous elections)
SHOULD WE MOVE OUR EFFORTS TO ANOTHER WARD IF WE ARE DOING WELL/BADLY?
It is possible to move resources, even at quite a late stage (7-7.30pm) away from wards where it is quite clear that the Liberal Democrat has either won or lost, into the marginals – in many cases this can lead to big wins.
It is never an easy decision – pollcraft alone is not enough, judgement and nerve are also needed, together with a chunk of good luck. But it has to be done if you are to successfully break-out from one or two wards or retain a foothold on the council.
In the case of candidates in non-winnable wards, you need their agreement to do this before polling day. Otherwise you will have a series of big rows and get no more help anyway.
Above all, your central agent should be someone with the authority and the local experience of elections to be able to find their way to the right decision.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our Advice FAQ Articles – available all year round to ALDC members.