Briefing for candidates and agents


Candidates and agents Briefing

Kent County Council, Maidstone Borough Council and Parish Council Elections

Topics

  • who's who
  • key dates of the election timetable
  • public health principles in light of coronavirus
  • qualifications
  • disqualifications
  • nominations
  • agents
  • postal votes
  • the poll
  • counting of votes
  • candidate spending
  • contacts

Who’s who

  • The Returning Officer is the person responsible for running the elections. The Returning Officer for Kent is Ben Watts and the Deputy Returning Officer for KCC and Returning Officer for MBC is Alison Broom
  • The Electoral Registration Officer is responsible for maintaining the register of electors and absent voters’ lists. The Electoral Registration Officer is Alison Broom
  • Contact details are provided later

Election Timetable

Publication of Notice of Election

19 March 2021

Nominations commence

On publication of notice

Close of nominations

4pm – Thursday 8 April 2021

Notification of appointment of election agents

4pm – Thursday 8 April 2021

Publication of statement of persons nominated

4pm – Friday 9 April 2021

Deadline for applications to register to vote

Midnight – Monday 19 April 2021

Deadline for new postal vote applications /changes to existing postal or proxy vote applications

5pm – Tuesday 20 April 2021

Publication of notice of poll/situation of polling stations

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Deadline for applications for new proxy votes

5pm – Tuesday 27 April 2021

Appointment of counting and polling agents

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Polling day

Thursday 6 May 2021 – 7am to 10pm

Deadline to apply to vote by proxy on grounds of medical emergency or if unexpectedly called away because of employment or service (this now includes self-isolation due to Covid)

5pm – polling day

Replacement for lost/spoilt postal votes ends

5pm – polling day

Alterations to register to correct clerical error

9pm – polling day

Return of election expenses

+ 35 days from result

Staying safe – Covid considerations

Public health principles that everyone should follow in all aspects of daily life, including participating in elections:

  • Maintain social distancing
  • Clean hands regularly
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wear a face covering where necessary
  • No-one should attend any electoral events if they are unwell, symptomatic with COVID-19, a confirmed case or a confirmed contact of someone who is self-isolating

Qualifications

  • Candidates must satisfy criteria on the day they are nominated and on polling day:
    • be at least 18 years of age
    • be a British, qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or national of an EU member state.
  • Also at least one of the following:
    • Registered local government elector for local authority area
    • Occupied as owner or tenant any land or premises in the local authority area during the whole 12 months preceding nomination
    • Principal or only place of work (including unpaid) during last 12 months in local authority area
    • Lived in the local authority area during the last 12 months

Disqualifications

A person cannot be a candidate if they:

  • are employed by the local authority or hold a paid office under the authority (including joint boards or committees). Candidates may be ‘employed by the local authority’ if they work at certain schools, fire services, police or health services
  • are subject of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order (or interim restrictions order) in England or Wales
  • have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three months or more (Inc. suspended sentence) without option of a fine, during the 5 years before polling day
  • are serving a disqualification due to being found guilty of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court
  • hold a politically restricted post

Submitting nomination papers

  • The documents that must be submitted by all candidates by 4pm on Thursday 8 April are:
    • the nomination form
    • (their home address form)
    • the consent to nomination
  • Party candidates will also need to submit, by 4pm:
    • A certificate authorising the use of a party name/ registered description on the ballot paper
    • A written request to use one of the party’s emblems on the ballot paper (optional)
  • Take care when completing your nomination papers, as mistakes may invalidate your nomination
  • The nomination form, home address form and consent to nomination must be delivered by hand and cannot be submitted by post, fax, email or other electronic means.
  • Our process

Nomination form

  • Include your full name
  • Optional: use commonly used name box(es) if commonly known by a name other than actual name and wish to use it instead. But you cannot use your first name as a commonly used name to exclude your middle name.
  • Description field – 3 options:
    • leave blank
    • Independent
    • party candidates can use party name or description authorised by a certificate issued by or on behalf of the Nominating Officer
  • Subscribers: two subscribers are required.
  • Must sign & print their names. Check details of subscribers against electoral register.
  • Only ask subscribers to sign after completing the name, address and description fields on the form.
  • When collecting signatures, it is important that you follow the latest government guidelines on social distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene, as well as the latest government guidelines on local restrictions
  • Data protection requirements

Home address form

  • Part 1 of the home address form must state:
    • your full name and home address in full
    • Qualifying address, or, where you have declared on your consent to nomination that you meet more than one qualification, your qualifying addresses
    • which of the qualifications qualifying address or addresses relate to (a, b, c and/or d)
    • the full name and the home address in full of the witness to your consent to nomination
  • Part 2 of the home address form must be completed if you do not want your address to be made public:
    • The name of the relevant area in which your home address is situated (if your home address is in the UK)
    • if you live outside the UK, the name of the country in which your home address is situated.

Certificate of authorisation

  • Party candidates must have written permission to use the party name/description from the Nominating Officer (or a person authorised to act on their behalf)
  • The certificate may:
    • allow the use of the party name or a particular description
    • allow candidate to choose whether to use the party name or any of the descriptions registered with the Electoral Commission
  • Must be submitted by 4pm on Thursday 8 April 2021

Emblem request form

  • Party candidates can ask for an emblem to be printed on the ballot paper
  • Emblem request form must be submitted by 4pm on Thursday 8 April
  • Party candidates should supply an electronic version of the emblem to the Returning Officer if required

Joint candidates

  • Nominated by more than one party
  • May use registered joint descriptions
    • must be supported by certificate of authorisation from each party
  • May use one emblem of one of the parties but there are no joint emblems

Election agent

  • Responsible for the proper management of your election campaign; particularly its financial management.
  • Notification of appointment must reach the RO by 4pm – Thursday 8 April. Form is included in nomination pack.
  • You will become your own agent by default if none is appointed.

Other agents

  • Other agents can be appointed to attend postal vote openings, polling stations and the count on your behalf:
    • You must give notice in writing of any people appointed as polling and counting agents by Wednesday 28 April 2021.
    • The appointment of postal voting agents attending a particular opening session must be made before the start of the session. We will give 48 hours’ notice.

Access to electoral register/absent voting lists

  • Access by candidates – once you officially become a candidate:
    • earliest, on 19 March 2021 if you, or others declared yourself a candidate
    • once you or others have declared yourself a candidate after this date / date you submit your nomination papers
  • Make written request to the ERO – forms are available online from the electoral commission but we would prefer it if you could contact the office for the form so we are aware of the request (contact details at the end).
  • Only use data for permitted purposes
    • to complete the nomination form
    • to help you campaign
    • to check that donations/loans are permissible

Registration

  • As a candidate you are uniquely placed to encourage people to register to vote.
  • You should encourage people to register as soon as possible.
  • The deadline for applying for the election is Monday 19 April.
  • Individuals can apply to register online at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. It only takes a few minutes.
  • When discussing registering to vote with individuals, you will need to make them aware that they will need to provide:
    • their National Insurance number
    • date of birth and address
  • People who do not have / cannot retrieve their National Insurance number can still register, but they may need to provide further information. If so, they will be contacted by the ERO.

Absent Voting

  • If you are encouraging people who don’t have a postal (or proxy) vote to apply for one, make sure you explain that they will only qualify for one in time for the elections if they are (or will be) registered in time to vote at the elections.

Campaigning

Campaigning dos and don’ts

  • Do use imprints on all your campaign material, including websites.
  • Do comply with planning rules relating to advertising hoardings and large banners.
  • Do make sure outdoor posters are removed 2 weeks after the election.
  • Do not produce material that looks like a poll card.
  • Do not pay people to display your adverts (unless they display adverts as part of their normal business).

Code of conduct for campaigners

  • Campaigners are an essential element of a healthy democracy, but their activities should not bring into question the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Electoral registration and absent vote applications:
    • Ensure forms fully conform to the requirements of electoral law
    • Include the ERO’s address for the return of forms
    • Ensure unaltered applications are sent to ERO within two working days.
    • Make sure electors understand implications of applying for an absent vote.
    • Do not encourage postal ballot pack redirection.
    • Do not encourage electors to appoint a campaigner as proxy.
  • Postal ballot packs:
    • Never touch a postal ballot paper
    • Never observe electors completing their postal vote.
    • Never handle or take any completed ballot paper or postal ballot pack from voters
  • Campaigning outside polling stations:
    • You are allowed to put your messages to voters on polling day, including public spaces outside polling places.
    • Keep access to polling places and the pavements around polling places clear to allow voters to enter.
    • Standards of behaviour within the vicinity of the polling place on polling day, particularly in light of coronavirus (for example, maintaining social distancing).

Polling day

  • We have put arrangements in place to ensure that polling stations are safe places to vote
  • Most of the measures that will be in place will be familiar to us all from visiting other public places such as shops and banks, for example floor markings to ensure social distancing and the provision of hand sanitiser on entry and exit
  • Voters will be encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil for use in polling stations, but pencils will also be made available for anyone who needs one
  • Voters should be encouraged to check their poll card before polling day, to see if their polling station has changed since previous elections.
  • Polling stations open from 7am to 10pm
  • Office open 7am to 10pm for queries or problems relating to the administration of the election
    • for queries relating to election finance issues, contact the Electoral Commission
  • Voters in the polling station or in a queue outside the polling station at 10 pm can apply for a ballot paper
  • Postal votes – can be handed into polling stations within ward or division or delivered to the election office until 10pm. Needs to be the correct division for KCC and the correct Ward for Borough
  • A person in a queue at a polling station at 10pm waiting to hand in a postal vote can do so after 10pm.

Counting of votes

  • We have also made adaptations to the verification and count in light of the public health situation.
  • The anticipated duration of the count is likely to be longer than usual because of the impact of measures to ensure the safety of staff and observers.
  • The count will begin on Friday 7 May at 9am, we will start with verification of ballot boxes across all elections.
  • We aim to have stage 1 completed by 12:30pm
  • County Stage 2 will begin at 1pm
  • Borough and NPR at 4pm or at the completion of stage 2 for the County Divisions
  • Doubtful Process
  • The count will be held in:
    • Maidstone Exhibition Hall, Detling Showground
  • Count centre will open to candidates agents from
    • 8:45am
  • Candidates, election agents, counting agents appointed by the candidate are entitled to attend.

Spending Issues

Candidate spending

  • Defined as certain expenses ‘used for the purposes of the candidate’s election’ during the regulated period.
  • Responsibility of election agent
  • Limit on expenses:
    • £806 + 7 pence per elector in ward/division on register in force on 19 March 2021
    • reduced for joint candidates
  • Must get and keep receipts (over £20)

Candidates’ spending returns

  • Returns due 35 calendar days after result of election
  • Returns made public by Returning Officer
  • Sample of returns may be reviewed by the Electoral Commission
  • Failure to submit a spending return is a criminal offence enforceable by police
  • No spending will be reimbursed

Contacts

Elections office:

Email: electoralservices@maidstone.gov.uk

Telephone: 01622 602007

Highways department:

Telephone: 03000 414141

Electoral Commission contacts:

Telephone:

0333 103 1928 (In England)

0333 103 1929 (In Wales)