My first election observation

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EnterOne of the prettier polling stations we observed at in Woking a caption

I recently conducted my first election observation with Democracy Volunteers, at this month’s local elections in Woking. What made this observation particularly interesting was that it was one of the councils trialing new Voter ID pilots which had also been rolled out in some instances (including Woking) in 2018. I will give my verdict on the successes and failures of the ID trials later on.  I found the observation provided an interesting contrast to the Exit Polls work I had been involved in whilst at the University of Exeter, for a research project on the 2015 General Election.

The first thing to note about election observation is that it is a long day. I woke up at 5:30 for a 7 O’clock start and we finished around 10p.m. The size of the Woking borough is large and so it was a very fast paced day and between a group of four observers, we managed to cover over 30 of Woking’s 43 Polling stations, including those in neighbouring towns of West Byfleet, Byfleet and Pyrford. The staff in almost all of the Polling stations were very welcoming, providing observers with refreshments as well as information on how the ID trials had gone for the polling station in question. Throughout the course of our observation we saw few people turned away because they had forgotten their ID and it appeared that the vast majority of those who were turned away, were able to return to vote at a later point in the day.

My main thoughts on the ID trials were that they appear to have largely been a success, with the need for ID incredibly well advertised at each of the Polling stations visited as well as throughout the town including at the train station. The majority of those we saw turned away appeared to be older voters, who had not had to produce ID in the past. This will obviously be an issue which needs to be examined before the trials are rolled out on a wider scale, as older voters traditionally vote in far larger numbers than any other demographic, and as such it is important they are not disproportionately affected by any newly proposed Voter ID laws.

Overall this was a great first-time observation and has given me a strong urge to conduct further observations in future. It is also convenient that the EU elections are taking place just 3 weeks after the Local Elections which I am looking forward to greatly.

Chris Connor is a recent graduate from Exeter University where he gained a Master’s degree in International Relations.

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