Democracy Volunteers deployed six observers across the Newport West constituency for today’s parliamentary by-election. The teams worked in teams of two to monitor and report on the polling day operation. In general, the polling staff were welcoming and engaged well with the deployment of independent observers.
The team attended 42 polling stations across the constituency making observations for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 45 minutes. The team then reported their findings to the central team electronically.
Overall, polling stations were generally well run in a friendly and welcoming manner to the public.
However, the team of observers had concerns regarding the way observers were challenged during polling day. On a number of occasions the independent observers, who attended polling stations, were either requested by council officials to leave the polling station, because they claimed that the observers were not in possession of the correct accreditation, or the police were called to intervene in the lawful process of election observation – something that is clear in the most up-to-date guidance issued by the UK’s Electoral Commission. (Pages 9-10)
Following an apology from the Returning Officer concerning some of the events on 4th April, during polling day, we are happy to accept the apology issued by him on behalf of the council. Following this letter we will be issuing our final report on the Newport West By-election in the near future. However, it does seem clear that the guidance available to staff at polling stations did not show the new accreditation which was instituted in January 2019.
Democracy Volunteers would like to thank the Electoral Commission for their assistance in trying to resolve various matters on polling day and will be meeting with them in the near future, ahead of the May local elections, concerning aspects of the observation in Newport.
Once both of the report has been issued, and the meeting held, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Returning Officer to discuss our findings further.
Following an exchange of letters with Newport Council this story has been updated.