On 3rd May the largest and most complex single election held in the UK will take place – the Mayor of London and the London Assembly elections.
The London election takes place every four years and is organised by London Elects – an independent, non-political body. Today, to mark 100 days until the election, London Elects launched their new website www.londonelects.org.uk
Here London Elects’ Sarah Garrett explains how the elections are managed, how to get involved and, most importantly, how to cast your vote:
On 3rd May this year, 3,800 polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm. 5.8million people will be eligible to vote and 15,000 pencils will be waiting in polling booths to help voters make their mark.
The Greater London Returning Officer (GLRO) is the person with ultimate responsibility for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly elections.
The GLRO for the 2012 elections is John Bennett. John appoints London Elects to work as an independent team assisting him with all aspects of the delivery of the election.
This includes everything from designing and printing the ballot papers, managing the counting of votes, to delivering a public awareness campaign to tell Londoners about the election and how they can vote.
While part of the Greater London Authority (GLA), London Elects is politically impartial and remains operationally independent. We work directly for the Greater London Returning Officer and have a separate budget and reporting lines from other GLA staff.
London Elects might be a small team but there is a wealth of electoral, finance, campaign and event experience within it. In fact, in one way or another, the team has amassed well over 200 years of electoral experience now!
But we don’t work alone.
Without the London Boroughs, and particularly the electoral services staff, an election of this size could not take place. All in all there are upwards of 15,000 people who help run the London election and count from registration officers, borough and constituency returning officers, to polling clerks, count staff and public awareness teams.
The London Elects team is split between the Operations Team and the Communications Team. My team, the Communications Team, ensures information is made available to voters, candidates, political parties, the media and other stakeholders in a straight-forward and timely manner.
There are only 3 of us to reach 5.8million people so we are doing a lot of work with charities and community groups across London this year to ask people to help us spread the message. In the next few months we’re going to be making a lot more noise.
We’ve launched the website today which has lots of information for everyone, will have more features and factsheets added as the election approaches and will be a source of live count data on the 4th May.
We are visiting every borough to help Londoners understand how to vote, we are running events with stakeholders and providing them with voter information materials in a variety of languages and formats, we are running a London wide advertising campaign and we’re also sending an information booklet to every registered elector in London.
The aims of our campaign are few but big. We want to raise awareness of the election amongst all Londoners – when it is and what it is about – and hopefully help increase turnout in London.
We also want to help people understand how to fill in the three ballot papers (pink for Mayor with a first and second preference vote; yellow for constituency assembly member with one vote; orange for London-wide assembly member with one vote) to ensure people are able to cast their vote as they intend and thus reduce the volume of spoilt ballot papers.
The Operations Team is responsible for the planning and coordination of all logistical aspects of the elections, and ensuring the administration of the elections complies with the law.
The team provides training and support for polling station staff and manages candidate nominations for the Mayoral election and the London-wide candidates for the London Assembly election.
The operations team also organise arrangements for the count, and manage the e-counting contract with IntElect.
Depending on turnout, there could well be upwards of 8 million ballot papers to count.
Due to the scale and because there are the three different voting systems used to calculate the results, the votes will once again be counted electronically.
This is where ballot papers are counted by specially designed scanning machines. The process has a number of stages to ensure all votes are counted and the system is rigorously and repeatedly tested prior to the election. In the coming weeks you will be able to watch videos on our website to show you exactly how this all works.
Three count centres will be specially set up for the task and the count will start on Friday 4 May. Each London constituency has been allocated to either Alexandra Palace, Olympia or ExCel.
The Constituency Assembly Member results are declared at the count centre by the relevant returning officer. The Mayoral and London-wide results will be announced by the GLRO at City Hall.
Preparations have been under way for many months now and we are confident that we are well on track to deliver a successful and fair election for the capital.
For more information about the election visit www.londonelects.org.uk