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

Securing ballot papers in the event of evacuation from the venue

Occasionally incidents occur during verification and count which may require the evacuation of the venue, either permanently or until the situation has been resolved.  

Obviously, in these circumstances, the safety of attendees is paramount but certain situations may not pose an immediate risk to the safety of staff. Having pre-prepared evacuation plans in place can help to maintain the integrity of the verification and count processes and the security of the ballot papers.  

In the case of an urgent evacuation it may be possible to secure the ballot papers which are still on the tables by locking up the venue or storing them within a locked room in the venue. In that case, you will need to have control of all the keys to that room or to the venue. If you have more time it may be possible to place the ballot papers in ballot boxes and then seal the ballot boxes (inviting agents to affix their seals if possible) and then securing the sealed boxes within the venue.

Sometimes the situation will mean that if the ballot papers are left in the venue they are likely to be damaged. In these situations it may be possible for the ballot papers to be secured within ballot boxes and removed from the venue by staff and taken to a place of safety until the verification and count can resume. In these circumstances, you will benefit from having a clear protocol for sealing the ballot papers within ballot boxes and clear labelling of those boxes. You should also consider how you would ensure the secure transportation of ballot boxes and their subsequent storage in these circumstances.

Last updated: 19 December 2023