Make sure you use Inside Croydon’s essential voting day widget.
That, effectively, was the message being issued last night from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly on the eve of the borough-wide governance referendum by Katherine Kerswell, the council chief executive.
Croydon’s £192,474 CEO was forced to admit, at the 11th hour, that her organisation had failed in the simple task of issuing voting cards to all the borough’s voters in time for today’s big vote.
For what is, after all, for most Croydon’s residents a fairly esoteric question – should the borough be run by a directly elected politician, or a politician picked by their politician mates? – the turn-out on referendum day was already expected to be as low as 20 per cent.
But the failure by the council to issue poll cards could reduce the number of voters further still.
No one actually needs a poll card to be able to vote.
You should be able to turn up at your polling station, your own pencil in hand, give your name and address to the officials inside, and they can then hand you your ballot paper. A simple X later, and your democratic duty is all done.
Poll cards often act as a helpful reminder that polling day is approaching. They also provide confirmation of where a person’s polling station can be located (they are sometimes changed).
Which is why the Inside Croydon voting day widget, as included at the top of this page, is so handy: just fill in your postcode, and it offers all eligible addresses; select the right one, and your polling station and polling times are revealed.
But Kerswell and the civic machinery of Croydon Council has been unable to deliver that important information to all voters in the borough this time around. Poll cards should have been going out to individuals around three weeks ago.
Campaign organisers across the borough had been reporting an increasing volume of calls and emails from concerned residents who had not received their expected poll cards from Kerswell’s council. “Had the referendum been called off?” and “Have I been taken off the voting register?” were among the more common questions arising.
Last night, just before 5pm and far too late to make the local TV news bulletins, ahead of referendum day, never mind what’s left of the dead-tree press, Kerswell issued what amounts to a mea culpa.
The council’s press office statement read: “Everyone who is eligible to vote should have received a poll card in the post. Residents who believe they are on the electoral register but have not received a polling card should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call our dedicated line 020 8604 7205.
“Poll cards are for information only – you do not need to take your poll card or any ID to the polling station. On arrival, you will be asked to confirm your name and address and provided you are on the electoral register, you will be able to vote.
“To help everyone stay safe during covid-19, people will be encouraged to wear face coverings inside polling stations, to maintain social distancing and if possible, to bring their own pen or pencil.
“After polling stations close at 10pm, votes will be counted and results posted on the council’s webpage, www.croydon.gov.uk/referendum, and social media channels as soon as they are available.”
Kerswell said, “A tremendous amount of planning and preparation goes into every polling day, and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the polling stations tomorrow. I want to encourage all of our residents to come out and cast their vote – this is a really important opportunity to exercise your democratic right and have your say on how your council is run.”
As the borough’s returning officer, or in this case “counting officer”, Kerswell is paid an estimated £20,000-plus as a fee (the council refuses to say how much exactly) for overseeing the smooth running of borough elections and referendums. Including the issue of poll cards…
Perhaps, to make amends for this dropped bollock, she could donate her fee to local food banks, which are likely to see an increase in demand over the coming weeks as the £20 per week covid “uplift” is withdrawn?
Read more: Reed tells nation what he won’t tell Croydon: trust the people
Read more: Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget
Read more: Referendum offers us a chance for consensus in Croydon
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