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

Verification and count venues and layouts

You should ensure that the verification and count processes are designed and managed to secure an accurate result, with a clear audit trail and that they are transparent, with everything carried out in clear view of all those entitled to attend.

The verification and count may take place at different venues and in these circumstances you will need to take into consideration travel to the different locations and impact on timings, steps required to package up the ballot papers in accordance with the relevant election rules, and secure transportation to the count venue.

Selecting the venue(s)

When selecting the venue for your verification and count, you should consider:

  • convenience of the location of the venue
  • lessons learnt from previous electoral events
  • access arrangements for vehicles and parking
  • entrances for those entitled to attend and staff, and for the delivery of the ballot boxes
  • disabled access, both to and within the venue
  • size of the venue taking into account:
    • the space required to conduct the verification and count processes
    • sufficient storage space for parcels, ballot boxes and other equipment
    • adequate space for those entitled to attend and observe proceedings at the count
  • lighting within the venue and externally
  • heating of the venue
  • platform or stage for announcing the results, and for making regular announcements throughout the proceedings
  • acoustics within the venue
  • internal and external IT and communication systems
  • facilities for those attending the verification and count
  • media requirements
  • furniture requirements
  • security and storage requirements
  • contingency arrangements to address the risk of a loss of venue

You should ensure that any equipment is tested in advance of the verification and count and that you have contingency arrangements in place in case of equipment or power malfunction.

Planning the layout

You need to ensure that all your processes are transparent, with everything at the verification and count carried out in clear view of all those entitled to attend enabling them to have confidence that the count process is well-managed and so that they can have confidence in the result.

You should prepare layout plans of your verification and count venue(s) at an early stage. A good layout will be informed by the verification and count model you decide to adopt, consideration of the workflows you intend to follow and the space you will have available. 

To avoid any issues at the verification and count you should put yourself in the position of a candidate or agent when planning the layout to test whether the arrangements deliver the necessary transparency.

However, you also need to ensure that the work of your staff is not disrupted by those observing the process.

In considering the layout and organisation of the verification and count, you should consider that:

  • appropriate security arrangements are in place to ensure that only those eligible to attend actually do so
  • there are sufficient tables to accommodate the number of verification and counting staff you have appointed and adequate space for the processes to be carried out efficiently
  • the layout of the tables:
    • takes into account the number of counting agents that are likely to be appointed to oversee the verification and count, as well as others entitled to be present
    • allows easy viewing by all of those entitled to be present
    • takes into account the number and size of the ballot papers
  • the space around the tables and circulation areas has been maximised and any obstructions removed
  • there is sufficient seating for those entitled to attend proceedings
  • the public address system is in working order with sufficient range 
  • the requirements of the media have been considered, e.g. by the provision of a separate media area, as they are likely to require space for their specialist (sometimes bulky) equipment
  • the health and safety of all those attending has been assessed, for example:
    • any cabling from equipment or media cameras should not present a trip hazard to anyone at the proceedings
    • free access to emergency exits should not be obstructed in any way
    • maximum venue capacity should not be exceeded
Last updated: 19 December 2023