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Election 2017: Double the work for the returning officers and election staff in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 13:50 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:52 25 April 2017

Russell Williams (light shirt) looks over the votes during the 2015 General Election count at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

Russell Williams (light shirt) looks over the votes during the 2015 General Election count at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

If voters feel the strain of going to the polls twice in five weeks, spare a thought for the returning officers and election staff who are having to go through the process twice.

Local elections 2017Local elections 2017

In Ipswich there are elections every year – a third of the borough council is up for election most years while once every four years (like this year) the county council is up for election.

Added on to that there are elections for police and crime commissioners, until last year’s referendum there were elections for MEPs, and the occasional referendum and general election.

For the second year running returning officers have had to organise two polls just a few weeks apart from each other – last year there were PCC elections and the European referendum.

Next Thursday most of Britain goes to the polls for local elections, and in Suffolk the votes for that election will be counted during the day on Friday.

Ipswich Council chief executive Russell Williams is acting returning officer responsible for the count (the official Ipswich Returning Officer is the town’s mayor but that is a ceremonial position).

He said: “June 8 will be the 12th major election that I have been responsible for organising in Ipswich since I became Chief Executive of the Borough Council in 2009.

“This time is a bit different than the other 11 as we are organising the whole thing from scratch with just a few weeks to do it.”

In Ipswich Mr Williams has to organise the locations for 72 polling stations across the town, find around 160 people to work a 15-hour plus shift,, organise delivery of 144 ballot boxes and 72 polling booths, send out around 15,000 postal votes, and sort out the 10,000 plus postal votes that will probably come back in.

He also has to sort out the count venue – with another 60 plus staff, advise candidates about the election, deliver more than 90,000 poll cards, ensure over 80,000 ballot papers are distributed, and make sure the electoral register is up-to-date and correct.

The final results for the county council elections are expected to be announced during the afternoon of Friday, May 5. The general election count will start as soon as possible after the close of polls on June 8 and the results are expected to be announced during the early hours of June 9 – Ipswich’s result is usually announced at about 4am.

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