With 983 candidates battling to win seats in 184 unitary and town and parish electoral areas across Cornwall on Thursday, 4 May, staff from Cornwall Council’s electoral service are busy preparing for the forthcoming elections with thousands of ballot papers being printed, staff being trained and arrangements being made to set up the two count centres at Carn Brea leisure centre and the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge.
There will also be four Neighbourhood Plan referendums taking place on the same day. These are for St Minver parishes, Bude – Stratton, Roche and Rame Peninsula. The votes for the referendums will be counted following the declarations of the unitary and the town and parish council elections.
The unitary election will see 448 candidates contesting 123 seats in 122 electoral divisions (Bude is a two member division). All 123 unitary council seats are being contested, with the number of candidates in electoral divisions ranging from two to six.
97 current Cornwall Councillors are standing again (although two Councillors have changed areas), with 26 standing down. Earlier this year the Council held a special event to provide information for people considering standing for election to the unitary authority.
There are 196 parish and town councils in Cornwall, and 17 parish meetings, with 309 separate electoral areas.
There will be contests in 62 town and parish councils, with a total of 535 candidates standing for election. This means that there will no elections in any of remaining town and parish councils, with 1,341 candidates elected unopposed.
Now the list of candidates has been confirmed Returning Officer Kate Kennally is encouraging people in Cornwall to make sure that they use their vote on 4 May.
“The level of turnout in local council elections is usually lower than in general elections and yet the people elected to unitary and town and parish councils will be making decisions that have a major impact on the lives of local communities” she said. “These are the bodies that are responsible for maintaining roads, beaches, green spaces, public toilets and car parks; providing social care services and running libraries and cemeteries.“
Kate is particularly encouraging young people to make sure that they go out and vote. “These elections give young people the chance to have their say on important decisions which will affect their future“ she said. “Over the past few weeks we have staged a series of events at schools and colleges across Cornwall to encourage young people to register to vote and we now want them to go out and use their vote.“
To be eligible to vote in the 4 May elections you need to have registered to vote by Thursday 13 April. If you have already registered you do not need to apply again, unless your details have changed. Anyone who has not yet registered to vote can register online – it only takes a few minutes to complete the Register to Vote online form.
Poll cards have been sent to all households on the electoral register, and postal vote ballot papers are due to be sent out to everyone who has requested a postal vote around 18 April, with a further mailing taking place around 21 April.
Electoral services staff will begin opening postal votes at the Council offices at Luxstowe House and Dolcoath from Monday, 24 April, with the process continuing until 10pm on 4 May when the polls close. So far the Council will be sending out 73,371 unitary and 27,742 town and parish postal votes – a total of 174,484.
Staff from Cornwall Council’s electoral service have identified 473 buildings which will be used as polling stations for the two elections. Most are village and church halls, schools and community centres – but there is also the odd caravan and portacabin and even a 19th century Cornish castle! The castle in question is Caerhays castle, an English Heritage Grade 1 Listed Building in Gorran which was built by the famous architect John Nash for the Trevanion family in the early 1800’s.
“Finding suitable polling stations in a rural area like Cornwall can be a very challenging task“ said Cornwall Council’s Electoral Services Manager Denise Holwill. “They have to meet a strict set of criteria, including being accessible to people with disabilities. This is why we usually use public buildings such as schools, village halls and community centres”.
There are two count centres being used for this year’s elections – Carn Bea leisure centre in Pool, which will be used for the Cornwall Council electoral divisions and town and parish councils covering the St Ives, Camborne and Redruth and Truro and Falmouth parliamentary constituency areas, and the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge which will be used for the Cornwall Council electoral divisions and town and parish councils covering the St Austell and Newquay, North Cornwall and South East Cornwall constituency areas.
The verification of votes for both the Cornwall Council and the town and parish council elections will take place on Friday 5 May.
The Council has recruited 1,000 Presiding Officers and Polls Clerks to run the 473 polling stations. In addition to this there will be around 400 Count Assistants verifying and counting votes at the two centres.
“The staff have to arrive at their polling stations by 6.30am and then set up the room ready to open by 7am prompt” explained Denise Holwill. “At the end of the day they must close the station at 10pm , prepare their paperwork and then deliver the ballot box and packages to either a collection point or direct to the count venue, depending on distances involved”.
The verification of votes for the unitary council election will begin at the two count centres at 10 am on Friday, 5 May. All returned postal votes have to be opened and the accompanying statement scanned before the ballot paper is taken to the count centres to be mixed in with votes cast at the polling stations (a legal requirement).
The counts, which involve sorting the votes cast between the different candidates and looking for doubtful ballot papers, will begin once the postal and polling station votes have been joined together.
Once the count has been completed and all the declarations have been made for the unitary council election, staff will begin the task of verifying and then counting the votes for the town and parish council elections.
Following the declaration of votes for the town and parish council elections, the votes for the Neighbourhood Plan referendums will be counted at the Wadebridge count centre and these results declared.
The results of all the elections will be published on the Council’s website as they are declared at the two count centres.