In many ways it is bizarrely anachronistic that voters cannot go to a website, input their address and find out where their local polling station is. Postcode lookup followed by a handy map and relevant transport information is the norm across even small scale websites put together by a few hobbyists, yet isn’t available for such a basic feature of how our elections are run.
The reason is, in part, due to the complexity of the data required behind the scenes as there is no one database of polling stations. Attempting to get accurate and timely information out of every local council’s electoral services team is notoriously difficult, even when it is data they are legally obliged to supply.
The other reason is that such obstacles only exist because looking up your polling station may be useful, but it isn’t sexy. You don’t get ministers or the Speaker speaking up in the media demanding action and lambasting obstacles. So it still hasn’t happened.
But things are edging closer as the latest circular from the Electoral Commission to returning officers explains:
We have recently agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with Democracy Club in relation to a project to provide voters with an online tool to help them quickly find their polling station.
The agreement allows Democracy Club use of our Public Sector Mapping Agreement as an End User. This means that data which is licenced under the Ordnance Survey’s Address Base, such as Unique Property Reference Numbers, can be shared with them, under the terms of the Public Sector End
We support the work of Democracy Club and, in particular, this project because it will make information that we know voters look for online on polling day easy to find.
We encourage local authorities to work with Democracy Club and to provide them with data to support this project wherever