Bring Mask and Pencil: England’s Local Elections Get Go Ahead

England’s local elections will go ahead in May, the UK government announced on Friday, but with extra precautions to guard against the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Proxy voting rules have been relaxed to allow people needing to shield or self-isolate at the last minute to cast their ballot.

Polling stations will echo supermarkets with plastic screens, social distance-markers, and plenty of hand-sanitiser.

The usual stubby pencils will be available—but people are advised to bring their own, or a pen. Voters will need to wear a mask, in accordance with current legislation.

Previously the government had said that the May 6 elections were under review due to uncertainty about lockdown curbs.

Last year, the local elections in May were postponed and put under review as the nation faced the first wave of the pandemic earlier in the spring.

“In the year that has intervened, Returning Officers, the government and their partners have made extensive preparations to be able to hold these polls on 6 May 2021 in a way that minimises the risk of spreading the coronavirus,” Chloe Smith, Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution, said in a statement.

The elections will include those which did not go ahead last year.

Voting will still be carried out through the usual three methods: in-person at a polling station; by postal vote; and by proxy vote.

“We are changing the rules for proxy voting to ensure that anyone who is self-isolating can request a proxy vote at the last minute—up to 5 p.m. on polling day itself,” the government said in the announcement.

“Voters (and companions of disabled voters) should bring their mask, as they would wear in any indoor public place, and we will be encouraging them to bring their own pen or pencil with which to mark their ballot paper.”

The government is also asking candidates to drop the common practice of offering voters a lift in their car to the polling station. “This has been identified as a particular risk of spreading the virus,” the Cabinet Office statement read.

The government has pledged an extra £31 million ($42.5 million) (out of a total election budget of £92 million) to help make the election “COVID-19 secure.”

“Everyone who feels comfortable going to a supermarket or a post office should also feel confident attending a polling station in May,” Smith said. “We encourage anybody who is shielding, or who would prefer not to attend a polling station, to apply for a postal or proxy vote ahead of the polls.

The elections will also cover the selection of police commissioners, and regional mayors, including the Mayor of London.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey

February 5, 2021 7:05 pm

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