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

Appointing staff for the issuing and opening of postal votes

You should identify staffing requirements for your postal vote issuing and opening sessions. The following staff may be required: 

  • specially trained supervisory staff 
  • clerical staff 
  • IT staff

You must not appoint any person who has been employed by or on behalf of a candidate in or about the election.

You should be mindful of the demands on time the issue and opening of postal votes can place on core staff when considering your staffing needs.

Staffing for issuing of postal votes

There will be a number of additional postal vote issues in the immediate run-up to polling day to pick up those who have applied to vote by post and to register in the lead-up to the registration deadline.1  You will need to consider how to manage this, ensuring postal votes can be issued to electors as early as possible. 

You will also need to plan for any particular arrangements that will be required to manage the issuing of additional postal ballot packs close to polling day, where applications are determined close to the poll. For further information see our guidance on issuing postal votes.

You should also take into account the total number of current postal voters and projected turnout of postal voters when deciding on your staffing arrangements, as well as the potential for late engagement and interest in the election by which point scope for adjusting plans will be limited. You should plan for the possibility of a high turnout but, as a minimum, you should assume that the turnout of postal voters will be not less than the turnout of postal voters at the last equivalent polls. Your review of previous electoral events will give you an indication of how robust your previous staffing assumptions were.

You may need to revise this assessment after you have received the final postal voters’ lists from the ERO. You should build sufficient flexibility and contingency into your staffing arrangements to deal with a last-minute increase in numbers of postal voters, an unexpected increase in turnout, or varying volumes of postal votes being returned on different days. For example, if there are televised leaders’ debates, this may have an impact on the pattern and volume of returns and this should be part of your considerations when determining your staffing requirements. Your arrangements also need to be such that you can ensure you can effectively manage those delivered to polling stations on polling day. 

Managing contractors

If you decide to outsource all or part of the postal vote issuing process you should designate a member of the project team to monitor outsourced work and specifically to attend those parts of the issuing process that have been contracted out. This person should also monitor the work of the contractor, which should include carrying out tasks such as:

  • spot checking to ensure that the postal voting stationery does not contain any errors 
  • checking the postal ballot packs are being correctly collated 
  • ensuring that any postal votes that need to go overseas are being prioritised 

Further guidance on managing contractors and suppliers can be found in our guidance on Managing contractors and Suppliers.

Staffing for opening of postal votes

How the verification of personal identifiers is to be carried out, including how much of this process is automated and how much of it needs to be done manually, will also impact on the numbers of staff you will require for opening returned postal votes. You must have arrangements in place to enable the checking of 100% of postal vote identifiers.2

You can find more information in our guidance on the postal vote opening process.

Last updated: 19 December 2023