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Getting the region ready to vote

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By Fiona Reid
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Getting the region ready to vote

TODAY’S the day that the UK goes to the polls for the General Election.

And the person responsible for making sure it all runs smoothly in this region in the next 24 hours is returning officer (RO) Dawn Roberts, who is also the chief executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Along with her team, she has been busy preparing since Rishi Sunak announced the election last month.

Dawn will oversee 76 polling places and 102 ballot boxes in the Dumfries and Galloway constituency, and another 72 polling places and 100 ballot boxes in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

She said: “That’s 202 ballot boxes in total across 148 polling places, so quite a logistical job on the night of the count to get all the ballot boxes to the count centre at DG1 Leisure Complex in a timely manner, verified, sorted and counted.”

That will be the job of the election team, which comprises 600 staff in total, of which 450 are connected to the polling element and 150 will be at the count itself.

Explaining why the count is at DG1 now and not Easterbrook Hall any more, the RO said: “DG1 is a council facility and one that we have used in the last few election counts. It has everything we need to be able to perform a safe, effective count including good access, a central location, plenty of space on the count floor itself and in other areas of the building and perhaps above all else, provides us with assurances around security and secrecy of the vote.”

Dawn Roberts

Staging a General Election locally comes with a pricetag of more than £200,000.

“Every election is different in terms of logistics, number of people required, how many voters and polling places we have an so on,” said Dawn. “We keep a very close watch on not only financial spend, but also on officer time, as all of this data and information is reported back to the appropriate body depending on the election in question. “Everything is accounted for from the pencils placed in polling booths to the number of miles travelled by polling place and end of poll staff; we must and we do ensure best value.”

The 2019 General Election cost this region £437,732.79 in total for the two seats and it’s expected to be similar this time around.

As for challenges, the surprise summer date has caused a few issues for the council.

Dawn said: “Clearly this election falls in school holidays, meaning some of our usual hardworking, dedicated staff who work on elections have booked leave and are away for the election on 4 July. This has meant we’ve had to call on some staff who are in some cases less experienced, but who have shown a willingness to step forward and assist. We provide training to all staff no matter what their role.

“We believe this is only adding to our pool of staff who can work at elections and believe we are in a good place to deliver a safe, effective election across the constituencies.

“However, with it being a summer election, it should negate the need to worry about snow, ice and flooding, but never say never, as it is the UK!”

  •  Keep an eye on our Facebook pages and this website tonight for the latest news and results from the count in Dumfries

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