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

Principles of an effective verification and count

You should ensure that your verification and count arrangements can deliver the following key principles for an effective verification and count:

  • All processes are transparent, with a clear and unambiguous audit trail. For example:
    • everything is carried out in clear view of all those entitled to attend
    • sufficient information is provided to attendees on the processes to be followed
    • communication of information is consistent and open
  • The verification produces an accurate result. This means that the number of ballot papers in each box either matches the number of ballot papers issued as stated on the ballot paper account or, if it does not:
    • the source of the variance has been identified and can be explained, and/or
    • the box has been recounted at least twice, until the same number of ballot papers is counted on two consecutive occasions
  • The count produces an accurate result, where: 
    • the total number of votes cast for each candidate and rejected votes matches the total number of ballot papers given on the verification statement for the constituency
    • the verification and count are timely 
    • the secrecy of the vote is maintained at all times
    • the security of ballot papers and other stationery is maintained at all times
    • the communication of information at the verification and count is clear and timely

In addition to considering how to ensure that your processes will enable you to meet the key principles, you will need to consider other practical factors that will affect the organisation and timing of the verification and count, such as: 

  • the size of the constituency
  • the geography of the constituency
  • the size and capacity of the venue 
  • the ability to ensure transparency for candidates, agents and observers at the venue
  • the cost of using the venue

In all cases, you should keep a record of your decisions and you should keep your verification and count plans under regular review as circumstances may change.

More guidance on choosing and managing your venue can be found in Verification and count venues and layouts.

Last updated: 19 December 2023