Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Appointing polling station inspectors

Polling station inspectors play an important role in the effective management of the poll. They provide an essential communication link between you and your polling station staff including dealing with queries and problems arising on polling day. 

You should appoint polling station inspectors to visit and inspect polling stations on your behalf on polling day. In deciding on the allocation of polling station inspectors to polling places, you should consider:

  • the geography of the area and travelling distance between polling places
  • the number of polling stations in each polling place
  • the experience of polling station staff at each polling station
  • expected turnout levels and any particular local circumstances
  • the number of visits polling station inspectors will be expected to make to each polling station during the day

Duties of a polling station inspector

Polling station inspectors should ensure that all of their assigned polling stations are:

  • properly set up to take account of voter needs and contribute to the smooth running of the polling station
  • fully equipped and accessible to all voters 
  • meeting your expectations of service to voters

The polling station inspector should work with the Presiding Officers and polling station staff to identify and deal with any problems arising throughout polling day and at the close of poll, and should escalate any issues to you as appropriate.

You should have a process in place for the ERO to communicate any polling day amendments to the register and emergency proxy applications. You should advise polling station inspectors of their role in this, if any.

Initially, polling station inspectors should aim to visit all of their allocated polling stations as quickly as possible in order to be able to reassure you that all stations have opened on time and are operating effectively.

These initial visits could be preceded by a separate communication sent by Presiding Officers to their polling station inspectors, prior to the opening of the poll. For example, polling station inspectors could be notified via text message confirming whether the polling station is set up and ready for opening, and whether there are any issues, to help the polling station inspector prioritise their visits.

Subsequent visits throughout the day can be used for a variety of purposes including:

  • collecting postal votes
  • answering any questions that polling station staff may have
  • checking that all notices remain properly displayed
  • delivering any missing or additional equipment that is required

Female PSIs may also be required to check the photographic ID of electors who request to have their ID checked in private by a female member of staff where no female member of staff is available in the polling station at that time. In such cases, the PSI should be appointed as a Deputy RO for polling day for the purpose of making decisions on the validity of ID as part of any checks they carry out. Our guidance on recommended staffing levels contain further information.

Instructions for polling station inspectors

You should provide polling station inspectors with clear instructions about their role and a checklist of tasks that they should carry out and complete during their polling station visits. This checklist also contains a list of what each polling station inspector should receive prior to polling day.

Completed checklists can also be used to inform an evaluation of the suitability of polling stations as part of the post-election review process. You can find a copy of the checklist to print and use in our planning the election resources section.

Last updated: 3 October 2023