Gearing Up for May at the AEA Conference

The AEA Annual Conference seems to have come around quickly again this year.

No prizes for guessing what the central topics are for the Conference here in Brighton this time round – the elections on 7 May and Individual Electoral Registration.

Each election is different – indeed each ward and constituency is different. That local dynamic really matters. Electoral administrators are bracing themselves for large turnouts and intense media scrutiny. Many will be facing the challenge of a number of polls taking place on the same day as we have the largest number of combined polls since 1979.

Preparation and planning is the name of the game. Whether it’s planning all the details of the count, brushing up on all things social media or testing out contingency plans – the more administrators can do to prepare now, the better placed they will be on polling day. It’s our job at the Commission to give support and advice wherever we can as plans are being formed and put into action. We hope our published guidance and resources play a useful part in giving political parties, candidates, campaigners and administrators access to the information they need.

Multi-party politics looks set to put its stamp on the general election, compared to the kind of contests of years gone by. The campaign itself will have its own unique feel too, with many new campaigners getting involved for the first time. With this in mind, administrators are rightly thinking about what this all means for polls locally and asking themselves questions like…

Is this a seat with a large number of new campaigners, who are less likely to be familiar with processes like the count?

Could this traditionally ‘safe’ seat turn out to be a much more open contest this time round, with a very close result?

Could this seat finish up being one of the pivotal results in the election overall, bringing with it intense media attention?

Planning for a range of scenarios and considering all the local aspects are threads that continue to weave their way into plans for the big day. For voters the essential nature of polling day will not change significantly. Although there will be changes that have been made in the interests of voters and which will apply for the first time at a general election, especially changes in emergency proxy rules, the look of the ballot paper and what happens at 10pm if a voter is at the polling station but hasn’t been issued with a ballot paper.

The months ahead promise to be busy and challenging. It’s clear to see the real commitment and sense of common purpose among electoral administrators here at the Conference, as people share their experiences and gear up for 7 May.

Andrew Scallan
Director, Electoral Administration

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