Arun residents urged to consider postal vote for May elections

Voters in Arun are being urged to consider applying for a postal vote in the upcoming West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 3:21 pm

Arun District Council wrote to all households a few weeks ago to let residents know what it is doing to make the election process as safe as possible.

This includes reducing the number of polling stations it will be operating on May 6 and ensuring they are Covid-compliant and safe for voters.

The council says it is sorry for any inconvenience this might cause but having carried out risk assessments it has chosen venues it feels will work best for these elections.

Labour candidate Michael Ward

Safety measures at the remaining polling stations will include cleaning, socially distanced queuing systems, face coverings being worn and hand sanitiser on site.

Electronic poll cards will be sent out so people do not have to bring a paper copy and can just show this on their devices.

The NHS QR code will be there for scanning as part of the Test and Trace programme, booths will be cleaned between each voter and voters are encouraged to bring their own pencil or pen. If not, those provided will be sanitised between uses.

However because some residents may not find it as easy to reach their designating polling stations, the council is asking them to consider applying for a postal vote in voting by proxy.

Labour has called on the council to run a mass information campaign to alert voters about the reduction in polling stations

Michael Ward, the party’s county council candidate for Arundel and Courtwick, said: “We understand why it’s been necessary to protect staff and voters by reducing polling stations but it is a significant upheaval when people are used to voting near home.

“There needs to be a massive public information campaign with posters, adverts in local newspapers and leaflets in public places. Voters have a responsibility to cast their vote but public officials have a responsibility to enable them to do so.”

There will only be one polling station open in Arundel - at the Baptist church off the Ford Road - with voters from surrounding villages such as Burpham and Houghton needing to travel by car to get there.

Voters from Lyminster won’t be able to vote at the Bell Tower of St Mary’s but will join those across Courtwick in needing to travel to The Loft at The Bodyshop in Littlehampton to vote.

Mr Ward is worried that the changes could confuse some and put off others, adding: “The risk if there is no information is that there will be a very, very low turnout because people may have long, complicated and unfamiliar journeys to get to one of the two polling stations open.

“That would be bad for voters unable to exercise their rights to vote and bad for democracy.”

He explained how if people are made aware of the changes now they still have time to register for postal votes to avoid having to travel to a more distant polling station.

Nigel Lynn, deputy county returning officer and chief executive of Arun District Council, said: “Keeping our residents and staff safe during these uncertain times, while delivering a successful election is vital and we need our residents to help us do this.

“We know that changing the polling stations people are used to going to is not ideal but delivering an election during a pandemic brings us challenges that we must tackle. Voters opting for a postal or proxy vote, reducing footfall through polling stations, is one way we can help to limit the risk factors.

“If residents are planning to opt for a postal or proxy vote, please apply as soon as possible rather than wait until the deadline. This will help us to manage the process as efficiently as possible.”

To download a postal or proxy form visit www.arun.gov.uk/elections or for more information call the council’s helpline on 01903 737616.

Postal and proxy votes can be temporary, for these elections only.

Register to vote by Monday April 19 – if you have been included in the recent household notification letter then you don’t need to re-register.

Apply for a new or cancel a current postal vote by 5pm on Tuesday April 20. Apply for a new or cancel a current proxy vote by 5pm on Tuesday April 27.