Voters Are Complaining That Covid Guidance On Ventilation Is Not Being Followed At Polling Stations
The Electoral Commission has said that polling stations should have their windows open after a number of voters heading to cast their ballot have reported a lack of Covid secure ventilation at their polling stations, with windows and doors shut.
The Electoral Commission told PoliticsHome today that people overseeing elections should ensure venues are well ventilated, and their guidance for administrators has been developed by considering public health guidance.
They said that ultimately returning officers are responsible for following Health and Safety Executive advice in their local area.
Commission advice released before polling day, said: "You should make an early assessment about the suitability of any venue being used for election activities, including ensuring the venue is well ventilated as per HSE guidance and able to allow physical distancing, and identify any necessary adaptions.”
However today people who have turned up to vote have reported their experiences on Twitter, with some saying doors and windows have been closed, despite other measures like social distancing and hand sanitiser being in place.
Caroline Murphy, who voted in Redbridge, said at her polling station at Grove Road, there was no ventilation inside, while someone voting in Reigate tweeted that "all windows and fire exit doors closed".
Others have said they won't vote if they can't be sure their polling station has fresh air circulating.
Theodora Wayte, whose Twitter account says she's voting in Rutland, wrote: "I’m going down to the town hall to vote. IF the doors and windows aren’t open, I’m not going in. #ventilation is far more important than wiping and gelling. #Election2021"
The scene appears to be varied across the country with one voter in Suffolk, Stephen Dawson, tweeting that the "instructions round here are for polling officials to open the windows for 15 minutes every hour."
Camden Council told PoliticsHome that at their polling stations, they are ensuring that the doors remain open to provide ventilation.
"In addition, at each location if possible, windows have been opened and a one-way system for entry and exit provided," they said.
In Gateshead, polling staff are keeping doors open but said they have not insisted that windows are open.
A statement said: "Supervisors are making regular checks of polling stations in person to make sure that all polling stations are full covid compliant."
But some voters are having the opposite experience, with poll staff spending the day in chilly temperatures with blankets over their knees and hovering over electric heaters. The temperature today is between four and ten degrees centigrade, with snow predicted for north Scotland.
Paula, Tweeting from Cambridge, wrote: "No fears of inadequate ventilation at our village polling station, as we vote in a gazebo attached to a caravan on the green… #Election2021."