The Electoral Process
An election follows a set legal process which is outlined very briefly for candidates and the public below. If a vacancy occurs during the term of office for Local Government then a by-election will generally be held within 3 months. Other major election dates may already be scheduled.
- Notice of Election and Election Timetable
- Becoming a Councillor (Local government only)
- Candidate Nomination
- Appointment of Election Agents
- Notice of Candidates (Poll) and Polling Stations
- Candidates and Agents briefing
- Close of Electoral Registers
- Issue of Postal Votes
- Return of Postal Votes
- The Poll
- The Count
- Election Expenses
The Returning Officer will advertise the Notice of Election with details of the vacancy (ies) approximately 6-7 weeks before the polling day. At the same time he will publish an election timetable which sets out the keys dates for lodging nomination papers, appointing agents, close of registers, issue of postal votes, and key deadlines/times for both the voter and candidates. These notices will appear in the regional paper and on the council website.
As soon as the notice of election is issued, the nomination packs will be available from the election office. This contains all the key information about the election for the candidate including the nomination form. There is also a handbook for candidates, which explains the electoral process in detail and also gives further information about candidate’s descriptions, election expenses, rules surrounding campaigning and the count. More information about becoming a councillor for local government is available.
Enclosed within the nomination pack will be a form for the appointment of the candidate's election agent, this can either be a person appointed by the candidate to look after all the candidate's correspondence and paperwork during the election or can be undertaken by the candidate themselves. Later on in the process the candidate can also appoint polling or counting agents to assist/represent them on polling day and at the count.
Once the candidates have lodged their valid nomination papers by the deadline, the Returning Officer will publish a statutory notice of the candidates who are standing (known as the Notice of Poll) and also notices listing the polling stations to be used (Situation of Polling Places) and a list of Election Agents appointed.
About 3-4 weeks prior to polling day the Returning Officer will host a briefing session for candidates in which further key information will be given to candidates about the election. This centres around the arrangements for the count and polling and it is important that candidates and agents attend.
There is a set date by which voters must be registered prior to the election. This cut off date allows the electoral registers to be finalised before the election and postal votes to be printed prior to dispatch.
Postal votes will be issued by the Returning Officer about 10-14 days prior the election, candidates will receive notification of this. Candidates and Agents are not legally entitled to attend the issue.
All Postal votes are accompanied by a signed statement completed by the voter, these statements undergo a statutory verification process by the Returning Officer to prevent fraud. Candidates and Agents are entitled to observe these sessions if they wish.
You will be provided with a list of polling stations in your candidate nomination pack which shows where the polling stations for the election are. The poll opens at 7am and closes at 10pm.
The method of voting for a Local Government election is by preferential voting. Voters mark their choice of candidate by marking 1, 2, 3 and so on, in order of preference. This is known as the Single Transferable Vote or STV.
Scottish Parliament elections are conducted using a mixed member proportional representation system known as Additional Member system. Voters place a 'X' on the ballot paper against one candidate on 2 papers, one for constituency and one for the regional list.
Other elections are conducted by First past the Post (FPTP) where voters place a 'X' on the ballot paper against one candidate.
The count is either held at close of poll at 10pm or the next day following the election. For a full election this is usually held in the Elgin Town Hall. For Local Government by-elections the count will usually be held at a venue within the ward that is contested.
A few days prior to the count the Candidate/Election Agent will have had to provide a list of persons attending the count on behalf of the candidate and admission passes will be issued, numbers may be restricted.
For Single Transferable Vote (STV) the papers can either be counted electronically or manually. Usually for by-elections it is manually.
As the ballot boxes arrive at the count the ballot boxes will be verified. Once the Returning Officer is satisfied with this check, he will announce the total number of votes cast for the whole election and the voter turnout.
The count proper then starts and the votes will be counted by enumerators (and for STV will go through several stages to take account of the preferences marked). The result will be calculated by the Returning Officer and thereafter he will declare the result and the winner.
The count usually takes roughly 2-6 hours, depending on voter turnout and the method of voting being used.
Election Expenses/ Campaign Spending
Campaign spending is subject to financial limits dependent on the election type and electorate in the area contested. The calculated limit will be advised when you become a candidate. Around 35 days after the poll the candidate or Election Agent must legally submit an account of the candidate's expenses in campaigning to the Returning Officer on the forms provided. These are open to public inspection. It should be noted that expenses are not reimbursed.