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

Postal vote issuing and opening venues and layouts

When selecting your venue(s) for postal vote issuing and opening sessions you should take into account the:

  • lessons learnt from previous electoral events
  • volume of postal ballot packs to be issued
  • estimated volume of returned postal votes
  • intended workflows
  • IT requirements
  • security and storage requirements
  • presence of disabled access, both to and within the venues

Your layout plans should include the:

  • number and positioning of staff
  • equipment needed, including electricity and network points
  • workflows to be followed

When mapping out workflows, you should take into account factors including any lessons learnt from previous electoral events and the expected turnout. If your last postal vote opening session is to take place at the verification and count venue, you should ensure that your verification and count layout plan makes provision for this.

The process of producing layout plans will help identify any potential issues prior to the setting up of the venues and will allow for any changes to workflow or the positioning of staff or equipment to be made in good time. 

Layout plans also contribute towards transparency, as these plans can be handed out to anyone entitled to be present in order to help them to follow what is happening, where and when.

You should ensure that whatever layout you choose, it is accessible to all those working on the processes and those entitled to observe them.

Considerations for observation of outsourced postal vote issue  

If you have outsourced the issuing of postal votes, you will still need to be satisfied that your contractors have made adequate arrangements to administer the issue effectively and in a transparent manner. As part of this, you could ask your contractor for copies of their proposed layout plans. 

These plans would also help to ensure that any observers present understand the processes that are being followed, and will be of particular assistance for your staff appointed to conduct spot-checks during the printing, collation and issuing of postal ballot packs.

You should designate a member of the project team to monitor any outsourced work and the work of the contractor, specifically attending those parts of the issuing process that have been contracted out.

Further guidance on quality assurance of the production and delivery of election materials can be found in Quality assurance and proof checking of election material

Last updated: 19 December 2023