Residents have contacted Inside Croydon concerned that they might lose their democratic rights in today’s elections because the council’s “emergency” helpline to arrange proxy votes in health emergencies was not working properly.
Voters who suffer a medical emergency today and are therefore unable to visit their polling station in person – particularly in cases where someone has to self-isolate for covid-19, for example – should be able to arrange for someone to act as their proxy through a call to the council’s democratic services department before 5pm today.
But when one mother called the council helpline number on her daughter’s polling card this morning, the staff member at the council contact centre didn’t know anything about the proxy voting arrangements.
The loyal reader told Inside Croydon: “We tried this morning to register an emergency proxy vote for our daughter who was told yesterday to self-isolate because of covid.
“Her polling card gave a number to call at Croydon Council to make arrangements to do so. The number was for Croydon’s contact centre.
“On the first two attempts, we were told there was no such thing as an emergency proxy and that she couldn’t vote.
“We kept on trying and on the third attempt got through to electoral services, who have made the arrangements.
“But if we hadn’t persevered she would have been disenfranchised by Croydon Council.
“We’re very aware that some could have been easily put off by the Contact Centre providing inaccurate advice.”
Polling stations across the borough are open until 10pm, though the advice is to get out to cast your vote much sooner, as the peak times are likely to be from around 6pm, when socially distanced queuing may create issues.
Do check on the location of your polling station: some regular venues have been moved or altered to better deal with the requirements of staying safe from coronavirus.
The emergency helpline closes at 5pm – just one extra hour over the usual office opening times, a nod to special measures in place for a covid-19 polling day. Callers to the council’s under-staffed switchboard report being held online waiting for an answer for the usual 10 minutes or so.
“Expect voting to be different,” says the advice on today’s polling cards.
“You must wear a face covering, expect to queue and please bring your own pen or pencil,if possible.”
In case you need it, the council contact number is 020 8726 6300, or you can email email@example.com. Good luck – you may need it.
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The staff at the polling station (Elmwood Infants School, Nursery Annexe, Lodge Road, Croydon,CR0 2PL) where I voted this morning were polite but totally unprepared. They didn’t know what the abbreviations in the voting list stood for, no booklet to consult, if I did insist that I was allowed to vote despite the G next to my name, which stands for European citizen, after two phone calls to someone in charge they understood I could vote. I wonder how many people have been sent away wrongly today.