Welcome advice on poll cards from the Electoral Commission

The 2010 edition of the Electoral Commission’s “Handbook for polling station staff” contains this welcome advice for those staff:

Most electors bring their poll card with them to show to the Poll Clerk even though this is not a requirement for most voters. Offer this poll card back to the elector. It will help them to give information to tellers outside if this is their wish.

It’s a small, but very welcome, recognition of the usefulness of tellers to the health of our electoral system.

Tellers are party volunteers who gather information about who has voted. They, therefore, bring two benefits: first, their work helps parties target their efforts on people who have not yet voted and thereby raises turnout and, second, their usefulness means parties are encouraged to recruit a network of volunteer helpers.

Giving political campaigns those sorts of human roots in local communities makes for a healthier democracy than one which is all about raising money from rich organisations or people and spending it centrally on marketing materials.

Indeed, the handbook itself goes on to say:

Tellers play a vital and important role in elections … Tellers may approach voters for information as they enter or leave the polling station.

(By the way, in case you are wondering which voters do have to show a poll card in order to vote, it is those with anonymous entries on the electoral register and their proxies.)

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