Local Election Officers Will Be Insured Against Covid Death Claims
Local election officials will be protected by the government when they run the 6 May local election in case anyone dies from Covid on their watch.
The Cabinet Office has said today they will give indemnity cover to returning officers and counting officers in England incase someone makes a claim against them relating to the virus.
It covers them for any claims of personal injury or death where the cause was contracting Covid-19 while participating in an election or referendum process.
Voters go to the polls in England in six weeks time in the local councils – which includes 21 county councils, police and crime commissioner elections and 13 directly elected mayors, including the Mayor of London.
The Hartlepool by-election will also be held on the same day.
Currently returning and counting officers are personally responsible for the running of an election, and they are independent from both local and central government.
They will also get cover if there is a challenge to the way the election was run, or accusations of irregularities, specifucally because of the virus.
This new insurance covers all elections and referendums between 6 May 2021 and 4 May 2022.
The development came in a written statement laid in the House of Commons by Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith, who said the elections are going ahead, but there must be the right precautions.
She said: “The purpose of the indemnity is to ensure that returning officers are financially supported if any COVID-19 related claims are brought against them in relation to the local polls.
“Whilst the indemnity provides for reimbursement of costs incurred once a claim has been concluded, we want to support returning officers wherever possible to deal effectively with claims brought against them.
“It is right that returning officers can be held to account for the conduct of the polls but it is also right that we support these individuals financially in that process.”
It covers losses, liability, damages, costs, claims, proceedings, and expenses incurred in relation to the conduct of the election arising from Covid-19, and there is no limit on the number of claims which a returning officer can make.
Smith said anyone working at an election has also been told today that there is no need to quarantine any paper after it is has been touched by a member of the public.
She said: “[There is] no public health need to quarantine ballot papers or postal votes.”
However she warned that the elections will take longer than previous years as council staff have to navigate social distancing and safety measures. Two-thousands extra elections staff have already been hired by councils in advance of the poll.
Anyone who needs to self-isolate close to polling day can request an emergency proxy vote at very short notice, right up to 5pm on polling day.
She said: “Democracy should not be cancelled because of COVID-19, and the government has every confidence in the ability of the returning officers and their teams to run these polls in a way that meets the highest standards of both public safety and democratic integrity.”