My first experience of being a reporter was at the Holmfirth Civic Hall. We entered the building through the reception lobby then signed in, we were taken into a large room by the receptionist. At first glance there were many tables with lots of dedicated workers opening piles of envelopes, taking out the voter information and placing them on to another pile by adding a rubber band to keep them in place. The piles would then be taken away by on of the electoral workers who would pass them over to another group of workers on computers; the information would be carefully checked on a computer data system.
We met with one of the electoral officers; she had been part of the team for five years. There are seven electoral services staff, responsible for the whole process, including processing all the new applications for postal votes, preparing the information for the voter packs, liaising with the printers, staffing all the polling stations and organising the count.
After the polls close on Thursday, ballot boxes are collected from 23 different wards across Kirklees and taken to two counting venues in Huddersfield and Dewsbury – it’s a huge operation.
For the opening of the postal votes, the electoral services team are also responsible for writing out to people to get them to come along to help, or “getting bums on seats”, and getting the event set up. The opening of the postal votes takes several days, with staff staying into the early hours of the morning on Friday to make sure that all the postal votes are verified in time to go through to be counted along with the votes from the polling stations.
It was a real eye-opener for us to see how much work goes on behind the scenes.
The electoral officer who talked to us on the morning said that their families are used to them not being around much during election week.
“We don’t have flowers thrown at us,” she said, “but we know that what we do is valued.”