How Covid-safe elections will be run in Peterborough

Preparations are underway in Peterborough to ensure that residents can have their say in a Covid-safe way at the May local elections.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:50 am

Following the announcement from the Government last month that elections will go ahead across the country on Thursday, May 6, Peterborough City Council has confirmed that Covid-secure measures will be in place to make every polling station safe, while there is also the option to apply for a postal or proxy vote.

In total, 23 of the 60 seats on the council will be contested, with any change potentially having huge ramifications to the balance of power at the authority, where the Conservatives are currently in control but with a minority of councillors.

The council said it is following national guidance for those who would like to cast their vote in person on polling day. All of the city’s usual polling stations are currently being reviewed to make sure every venue used can accommodate voting in a socially distanced and Covid-safe manner.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Elections are taking place on May 6

Where venues are not suitable to ensure good social distancing and ventilation, alternatives will be found which will be publicised well in advance.

People who are keen to vote in person on will be asked to:

. Wear a face covering

. Bring their own pen or pencil

. Use hand sanitiser, which will be available in each station, as they enter and leave

. Keep a two-metre distance away from others when entering or leaving the polling station.

At each polling venue screens for polling clerks and distance markings for voters will be set up. Frequent touch points – like door handles and voting booth tables – will be cleaned after each voter has cast their vote.

Those residents who would prefer to vote by post - particularly those who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable - are being urged to apply now if they have not already done so as a higher than usual number of applications for postal votes are expected.

To register for a postal vote you must be registered to vote first. More information about how to apply for a postal vote can be found at https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/council/elections/postal-votes.

If you change your mind closer to the elections, you can choose to rescind your application and vote at your local polling station in person. You have until 11 working days (Tuesday, April 20 at 5pm) before polling day to do so.

If you are unable to get to the polling station, or do not wish to attend in person, you can also apply for a proxy vote which means that you can appoint someone you trust to vote on your behalf.

In order to vote by proxy you will need to fill in an application form which clearly shows your signature and date of birth.

The deadline for applying to vote by proxy is six working days (Tuesday, April 27 at 5pm) before polling day, although legislation has been introduced to support people affected by Covid-19 right up to polling day by allowing them to apply for an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on May 6 itself.

You can find out more about voting by proxy at https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/council/elections/proxy-votes.

Gillian Beasley, returning officer for Peterborough City Council, said: “It’s likely that by May,we will still be living with some level of restrictions due to the pandemic.

“We are working hard to make sure our polling stations are Covid-safe for the elections, but we understand that some people may prefer to stay at home so I’d like to encourage residents to apply for their postal or proxy vote if they would prefer.

“We are expecting a higher than usual number of applications for postal or proxy votes so please don’t leave it to the last minute to apply. You can register now, and if you do change your mind closer to the elections then it’s easy to rescind your application.

“I do want to reassure residents who would like to visit their local polling station to cast their vote that it will be safe to do so. We’ve worked hard with employers and local businesses to make workplaces and essential shops Covid-safe and we’ll be applying the same measures with rigour to make polling stations a safe place to vote.

“More information will be available close to the elections around the steps we have taken to keep residents safe on polling day.”

As well as the Peterborough City Council elections, you can use your postal or proxy vote to take part in the elections for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough which will be held on the same day.

To find out more about this year’s elections, go to https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/council/elections/election-details.