The Count

When you’ve got to the very end of the Election Campaign and Election Day itself, the only thing left when the Polling Stations close at 10pm, is the Count itself.

What usually happens next is usually a mad dash between the Polling Stations and the venue that has been selected to hold the Count.

Local Authority Election Counts can be delayed if the Election Day itself is shared with a National Election or Referendum. If this is the case, the Count will probably take place on the Friday after the Election.

The time of the Count  itself is always at the discretion of the Returning Officer who will be in charge at the Count itself.

The Count will begin as soon as possible at the allotted time, but can be delayed if Ballot Boxes have been delayed or if a complaint has been made regarding the conduct of the Election.

As a Candidate, you will automatically be invited to the Count and asked to identify anyone you wish to take with you, as access is normally by invitation only.

It is normal to take your spouse or partner, along with your agent and/or some close family members or people who have worked on your campaign.

Numbers of those able to attend will be limited. So don’t be disappointed if you are only able to take one or two key people with you.

There are no rules that say Candidates must attend the Count. So if you feel you would rather not go, nobody will chase you.

Once the Count begins, not all Wards and Divisions will be counted at the same time and you may have to wait for your own Count to begin – so take refreshments or have money available to buy some, as these will normally be provided. (Check with your Democratic Services Department if you are unsure)

When your Count is underway, you and your representatives will be allowed to watch the counting take place. It is a really good idea to take this opportunity as you will soon begin to get an idea of how the election has gone for you.

When the Count has been completed, the Returning Officer will speak to the Candidates quietly first, to confirm the results.

If the Count is very close, you can request a recount.

Recounts are worth requesting if there are literally only a few votes between winning a seat and not being elected. A small margin of error is always possible, and I have seen an Independent win a seat against a Party Candidate on a recount, when the initial count had suggested a result that went the other way!

When the results are either clear, or have been accepted by all the Candidates, the Returning Officer will then formally announce the Result of the Election to the Hall.

The good thing about being told quietly first, is that if the result has been a disappointment, you will have a few moments to gather yourself before everyone else is told.

Regrettably, Counts can feel pretty raucous at times, especially if the Political Party Members are in a competitive mood.

The thing to remember is that it is all noise and even Candidates who are seeking election for the 3rd or perhaps 4th time will be feeling very nervous up and until the Results are finally in.

 

Election Day

Election Day itself is likely to be the busiest day of your Election Campaign.

Why? – because you do need to remind people to vote!!!

If you have enough money left within your Election Expenses Budget, the first thing you can do – preferably before people have left for work, is deliver an additional ‘get out the vote’ leaflet or note, just to remind people that its Election Day and you are hoping for their support.

During the day itself, you should visit all the Polling Stations that are serving the Ward or Division where you are seeking election.

The staff running the Polling Stations have often committed themselves to the full fifteen hour day and perhaps more, so politely introducing yourself and perhaps thanking them too will be a great way to show your support.

If you have been told by older or infirm Voters within the Ward or Division that they are going to Vote for you, there is nothing wrong with offering them a lift and helping them to the door of the Polling Station and back. This is something you need to be minded of whilst you are canvassing for planning ahead.

If you have enough support, you can appoint ‘tellers’ to ask and monitor how many of the people who said they would Vote for you have actually attended, as they leave the Polling Station. (You/They can cross off the names of Voters supporting you against the notes you have made on a copy of the Electoral Roll)

This is a long and boring task and requires people who have a lot of patience, as Voters are under no obligation to tell anyone how they voted, and tellers will as such often find themselves rebuffed.

The benefit of appointing teller is that as the evening of Election Day arrives, you can target your missing voters and literally ‘knock them up’ to remind them to get out and vote.

Believe me, it certainly works and I have witnessed candidates knocking on doors as late as 9pm to gather perhaps no more than 15 votes in that last stage of the day, then going on to secure their seat by only 10!

When the Polling Stations have closed, there should be enough time to get freshened up and have a quick bite to eat before the Count will be ready to begin.

My best advice is that you use it well, because an overnight Count can make your Election Day a very long one indeed!

The Opening of Postal Votes

An increasing number of voters now take the opportunity to vote by post.

Postal Votes have to be in before Election Day, and a special session will be called for the Opening of Postal Votes for Each Ward and Division.

Your local Democratic or Electoral Services Department will be able to tell you when the Postal Votes will be opened for your area.

You will be allowed to attend perhaps with one other person, but will normally be expected to confirm who will be attending prior to the session itself.

Attendance is not required, and your time is likely to be better used working on your Election Campaign, talking to potential voters and knocking on doors.

The Agents for the Political Parties usually attend the Opening of Postal Votes on behalf of candidates, just to check that procedures are followed and everything appears normal.

The process is usually governed very tightly in order to prevent observers from gaining an idea of how the Postal Votes have been allocated.

What you should remember is that with Postal Votes being cast earlier in the Election, the Result can look very different to that which is received at the Count itself.

Election Agents

Once you have your Candidate Pack and the Formal Election Campaign is underway, you will hear a lot about Election Agents.

Don’t worry. It sounds like a very important role, but in a council election, you are unlikely to ever need one.

In fact, it is not uncommon for Election Agents to delay things up for candidates who are running on behalf of a Political Party, who will be unlikely to have a choice whether they use one or not.

You could say that an Election Agent is rather like a candidate manager who is recognised formally by the Electoral Process.

An Election Agent can do many things on your behalf, including submitting your Candidate Forms and your Election Return, after the Results are known. They can also assume the role of key point of contact with the Democratic Services Department and be the first port of call if there is a legal issue during the campaign.

As a lone Independent candidate, there will be very little benefit to you having an Election Agent.

In many ways it will be much better for you to assume the responsibilities of being your own Agent, unless you are unable to rely on the support of an Agent who has experience of the Electoral System and running in elections before.

The Political Parties usually have professional Election Agents who will work from a local or regional office, where in some cases several Election Agents will be based. Whilst they can take away a lot of the administrative requirements of the Election Process, they are also likely to be responsible and carrying out the same role for all the candidates running for that Party in that same Election. As such, times and deadlines can be stretched by the efforts of candidates which might not be as sharp as your own, as a Party Election Agent will group all of your submissions together, in order to save on their time.

Your Competition

Unless you are fortunate enough to find yourself in an uncontested election, you will have competition from other candidates during the Election Campaign itself, and possibly before it too.

It’s very easy to lose focus on what you are doing yourself and be unsettled by what other candidates might be doing, particularly if they publish a message which sounds very strong, or are featured by the local media in some way when you have not been.

This experience is quite normal for anyone getting into politics for the first time, and one that even a lot of experienced politicians have too!

What you should bear in mind is that when you are promoting a message and ‘putting yourself out there’ in public, it is perfectly normal to become sensitive to anything that might bring into question what you are doing.

The good news is that this is normally an emotional response rather than a logical one. In fact, your competition will very probably feel in some way insecure when they become aware of anything you do.

These kinds of response are normal.

The very important thing you need to remember is that every moment you spend worrying about your competition or what they are doing, is a moment wasted that you could have spent positively promoting you or the work that you have, could and will do.

As far as your competition is concerned, keep perspective on everything you hear. It is in their interests to make you feel uncomfortable and all you need to be focused on is everything that you do.

Run your own race!

Your Manifesto & Election Pledges

Getting elected is rarely about just one thing. Different people have different priorities and in terms of the people we elect to represent us locally, our choices will be based no differently.

Realistically, this means that even if there is one local issue that you feel really passionate about, you will need to broaden your understanding of other issues too.

You need to be able to communicate what you have to offer in a way that will appeal to all of your potential voters. Not just a few.

Questionnairescanvassing and identifying the issues is a process which takes time, but is well worth it.

It means that when the time for your Election Campaign arrives, you will be equipped and have a good understanding of 3 to 5 real issues facing people locally – perhaps more. Issues that you can use to develop a Manifesto upon which you will build your Campaign. Issues upon which you can base your Pledges – that’s your commitment to voters regarding what you will aim to do.

Your Election Pledges need to be realistic, but aspirational. Solid, but with an open appreciation of what the political environment may allow you to achieve or realistically do. Simple, but with an understanding of the complexity of what it takes to get things done in government.

It is important that you never lie. That you never create issues just to get attention. Or make promises that you know you can never keep.

Always be sure that your Election Pledges reflect what you can realistically influence and not responsibilities of another authority – i.e. relating to something that in the role you would be elected to, you could never actually do.

Use language that shows enthusiasm for what you are doing, as genuine passion always has an advantage in gaining support and convincing people that you can actually win.

However, you should never mislead people by talking in a way which you know deep down is not you, or shows you to be something that you know you are not.

REMEMBER: You can fight for anything. But there is a difference between saying you will fight for something and saying you will change something.

Be honest about you plans and what you know you can actually do. People will then be far more supportive of you.

Suggestions for Pledges:

Unless you are campaigning with a running mate in a multiple seat Ward or Division, you should never have the same Election Pledges as any other Candidate. Even then, you might only share a few.

From this point of view, it is essential that you identify your own issues as a basis for your Election Pledges and Manifesto.

However, the issues which will appeal to most people can usually be narrowed down to a few.

It will be useful for you to research and understand how they relate to the local people who you are going to ask to vote for you and tailor them to your area.

These may include:

  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Building on the Greenbelt
  • Buses and Public Transport
  • Bus Shelters
  • Council Tax
  • Community Resources & Public Buildings (Museums, Recreation Centres etc)
  • Community Transport
  • Dog Bins
  • Environment
  • Flooding & Flood Protection
  • Green Spaces
  • Libraries
  • Litter
  • Local Grants
  • Parking
  • Planning
  • Policing
  • Potholes
  • Refuse Collections
  • Road Safety
  • Social care
  • Schools
  • Speeding
  • Street Cleansing
  • Young People

REMEMBER: Depending on the level and type of authority you are seeking election to, you will be restricted to what you can actually influence or do. Do not make promises you know you can never keep!

 

Proposers, Seconders and Signatories to support your Nomination as a Candidate

To formally become a candidate in a local election, once the election has been called, you will need to submit the signatures of Proposer and a Seconder (for All Elections) on your Nomination Form.

For elections to District Level Authorities and above, you will also be required to submit the signatures of a further eight people (Signatories) who support your Nomination as a Candidate.

All of these signatures MUST come from residents who live within the Ward or Division in which you are seeking election, who in turn MUST themselves be recorded and eligible to vote on the Electoral Roll for that same area.

It is a really good idea to work out who you are going to ask to be your Proposer, your Seconder and your other Signatories as early as you possibly can.

In all cases, you must make your Proposers, Seconders and Signatories aware that their name will be noted as a public record, and be published as part of the Formal Notice of Candidates, which will be circulated locally within the Ward or Division once the Nomination window has closed and all Candidates for the Election in that area have been recognised.

If they are unhappy with being publicly recognised for their support of your candidacy, you should not use their signatures. In no circumstances should you use any signature without them being aware of what it has been used for.

Things to consider:

It’s really easy to make a mistake on Nomination Papers. Not in the sense of what information you give generally, but by using a Proposer, Seconder or Signatory who isn’t eligible to support you. If this happens and you submit your Nomination Papers, the Democratic Services Department will reject your Nomination and you will have to start all over again – and when I say start all over again, that means going back to all of your Signatories and getting them to sign again, because you cannot make changes to your Nomination Form!

The best way to make sure you remove as much risk of a problem as possible are as follows:

  • Check with your Proposer, Seconder and Signatories that they are ALL happy to support you, and have their name recognised in the public domain.
  • Check that your Proposer, Seconder and Signatories are ALL eligible voters and that present on the Electoral Roll for the Ward or Division where you will be seeking election.
  • If possible, have two different sets of Signatories. Yes, that’s 2x Proposers, 2x Seconders, 16x normal Signatories and complete 2 separate Nomination Forms. (Check with your Democratic or Electoral Services Department if they will allow you to make copies. Otherwise, make sure you get yourself a duplicate set of Candidate Forms)
  • Get ALL of your signatures as early as possible during the Formal Campaign.
  • Submit your completed Candidate Forms to your Democratic Services Department as early as possible – just in case you need to correct a mistake! (You will normally be given a schedule of dates with the Candidate Pack and from this will be able to find out when the Democratic Services Department will be making appointments to receive Candidate submissions. Get an appointment as early as possible!)

And the don’ts…

  • DO NOT simply accept a Proposer’s, Seconder’s or Signatories word that they are on the Electoral Roll without checking that they are. (Some people are unaware that they are not Registered. Others never got around to Register. A few may have even lost their Registration without being aware. It doesn’t matter why they aren’t there; you need signatures from people who are OR YOUR CANDIDACY WILL NOT BE VALID!!!)

 

Election Expenses

As a candidate, it’s really important that you understand there are rules governing elections that you MUST follow.

If you don’t follow the rules, you could yourself being disqualified as a candidate before you even get started on your formal campaign. If elected, you could find yourself losing your seat. Worse still, you could even find yourself being charged with a criminal offence.

Some of the most important rules you need to focus on as early as you can, are those concerning your election expenses.

The basic rules:

All candidates are entitled to spend the same amount on their election campaign.

You can spend less than the allocated spend for your election if you wish. But you cannot spend more, as this would give you an unfair advantage in a democratic process.

You (or your election agent) MUST submit a signed declaration of your election expenditure after the election has taken place. The information you provide must be accurate to the best of your knowledge and understanding.

As an Independent, whatever you spend on an election campaign must be provided by you or by your supporters.

There is currently no public funding available for election campaigns in the UK of any kind.

If you have no formal organisation supporting you, it is essential that you keep a record of where any money or goods/services in kind you have received has come from, along with the financial value of what was received.

How much you can spend:

The key information you will need about how much you can spend on your election campaign should be contained within the candidate pack you will receive from the Democratic or Electoral Services Department. However, the Democratic or Electoral Services Department will answer questions for you concerning election finances when information is available.

If you are not provided with the figure for your specific maximum election spend by the Democratic Services Department, you will need two figures to calculate what you can spend in total on your election campaign.

They are:

  • The total number of voters in the Ward or Division where you are going to be a candidate. [Electorate]
  • The allowance or allocation per voter for the Ward or Division where you are going to be a candidate. [Allocation]

The total number of voters will be available from the Electoral Roll and can be checked with the Democratic Services Department.

The Allocation figure – per voter, should be in your candidate pack.

The calculation for your maximum election spend can be made as follows:

 

Electorate  x  Allocation  =  Maximum Election Spend

 

For example, in a Ward with an Electorate or total of 2149 people registered to vote, where the spend or Allocation per voter is 39p (£0.39), the Maximum Election Spend would be £838.11 (Eight Hundred and Thirty Eight Pounds and Eleven Pence)

The calculation would be as follows:

 

2149  x  0.39  =  838.11

 

The Allocation per voter will probably sound small when you first see it and will almost certainly be in a multiple of Pence. But when you calculate your budget in this way, it will begin to make a lot more sense.

What you can spend your budget on:

This is where you need to be really careful. Anything you spend on your campaign – either directly OR indirectly, is likely to be considered as an election expense.

This means that if you have 5 volunteers helping you during the campaign and after canvassing one day you all go to the pub and you buy them lunch, the value of the bill you pay might be considered as an election expense.

What you should spend your budget on will be things like:

  • Printing
  • Paper
  • Printer Cartridges
  • Design & Artistic Work (If you cannot do it yourself or find a volunteer to assist)
  • Phone calls
  • Rosettes
  • Stickers
  • Loud hailer or megaphone hire

You will need to be frugal and buy only what you need. Anything purchased specifically for the election must be accounted for – even if you do not use it or need it. Make sure you buy the minimum number of extra items possible to allow for mistakes, damage and wastage and no more.

You do not have to account for the time of volunteers, no matter what they do for you, as long as they have not been paid by you, or by someone else on behalf of you – even if that payment was offered by a third party as a gift.

Ideally, your expenditure should be for goods and services ONLY. Otherwise, things will get messy and probably expensive very quickly. Your budget won’t go that far!

REMEMBER:

  • You only have to stick to the rules on Election Expenses during the formal Election Period.
  • Whatever work you have done and whatever you have spent and used BEFORE the Election is formally called will not count against your Election Expenses.
  • This is why giving yourself as much time as possible to campaign and develop your presence in the community BEFORE an election is potentially so beneficial.
  • You can begin your campaign at any time!

Other: 

If you are unsure of anything at any stage, ALWAYS give the Democratic or Electoral Services Department a call and preferably obtain the response you need by e-mail.

 

The Electoral Commission

In a democratic system, it is important that the rules governing elections are kept as far away from political influence as possible.

Sometimes, this isn’t possible as decisions are too big to not be made by the sitting Government.

But as far as the management of elections and the money involved in financing political campaigns is concerned, the independent body that oversees and regulates all of this is called the Electoral Commission.

Your local Democratic or Electoral Services Department manages the elections under its control according to the rules that have been set by the Electoral Commission.

I strongly recommend that you visit the Electoral Commission Website and download the relevant candidate guides and read them too, as they will be a great help in providing you with a clear view of the rules which as a candidate you will be expected to adhere to.

Whilst you are campaigning and during an Election itself, your point of contact for the official side of everything will be your local Democratic Services Department. However, it is very useful to understand the rules that they are working to, just in case they don’t always get everything right.