Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Advice from the election people

I forgot to mention that letters turned up over the weekend from the election office with regard to Polling Agents and Counting Agents. Traditionally, small green pass cards were printed admitting the bearer accordingly and sent to the Candidate or their Agent for distribution. On this occasion, they have actually sent letters to all of the people I named to the addresses given. Had I known this, I wouldn’t have put c/o Morley Town Hall for various councillors as I have made unnecessary work for the Town Council office. (I had their addresses somewhere on file but it would have required a bit of hunting around).

For the count, I can bring myself, a guest (Karen, of course) and just one Counting Agent. I picked a name of one of my helpers who has given the most constructive campaign advice. Polling Agents have the authority to enter the polling station, talk to the presiding officer and satisfy themselves that procedures are being correctly followed. Their main purpose is to detect “personation”, i.e. that electors are who they say they are. (A dictionary definition is “To assume the identity of, with intent to deceive”)

Whilst the elections office have sent information on what a teller can or can’t do, they don’t say a lot about the scrutiny aspects of Polling Agents, other than that their duties are prescribed in the Representation of the People Acts.

I also note that the Department at the City Council have apparently changed names: Letters last month were headed “Department of Legal Services Elections and Registration Section” but now say “Legal and Democratic Services Electoral registration and Elections”.

The BNP have apparently put out three leaflets, of which I have copies of two of them. Initially, their first leaflet was A4 which mostly attacked Labour for their poor track record of attendance. The scans are slightly cropped but you should get the jist of what they are saying.

The A5 leaflet raises various local issues.

BNP A3 leaflet

Their third leaflet is folded A4 and bears a passing resemblance to my own, featuring a pencil graphic of the Town Hall inside and a back cover similar to my back cover. If they have been inspired to this style by seeing mine, then people often say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

BNP 2nd leaflet coverBNP 2nd leaflet coverBNP 2nd leaflet back page

There is also an anti-BNP leaflet doing the rounds. This is a triple folded leaflet that alleges that the BNP are not nice people. It mentions Alex Sobel, a Labour activist who came to his door on Sunday night to advise me that he would be voting Labour, unsurprisingly. His partner said this was the third leaflet she has received from me which were all the same, although I did point out that this was leaflet number two which she accepted when she looked inside. I’m not surprised that we will have done a smattering of double-leafleting & missed out others, without a meticulous micro-managed leaflet regime it is easy to overlap rounds & miss out places along the way.

Anti- BNP leaflet coverAnti BNP leaflet contents

I was passed details of how to leaflet Elmfield based on eight well established rounds and have copies of the Ward boundaries but there are quirks- the High Street buildings vary between being in Elmfield and Central Wards for no discernable reason.

I developed a personal etiquette for leafleting that I based on how I would expect others to deal with me. Firstly, walk on paths, not grass. Don’t walk in front of windows unless it is the only way to get to the letterbox. Push the leaflet fully in so that it is not showing externally. If it is a glass door, ensure it falls inside rather than hangs obviously against the glass. Lift the flap, lift the inner flap (gingerly if barking is heard) and push the leaflet through, preferably without letting the flaps bang or the knocker rattle. If folding of the leaflet is necessary due to small letterboxes or particularly rigid bristles, fold it in a way that the main message is visible. Try not to scrunch it, although sometimes it is unavoidable. Discourage your small boys from enthusiastic shouting whilst leafleting. Close the gate, or leave it as you found it. Be polite to anyone who engages you but if they want to talk at length, ask if you can come back at their convenience.

I had heard stories of offensive and rude behaviour towards election leafleters in the past but I have to say that everyone I have met and talked to (however briefly) in Elmfield has been fine, other than two small boys who greeted me with “Hello Mr. Fat Man” in a smart residential street.

I met one character on Sunday night who I chatted to for a couple of minutes, glad of the break. He was very friendly and I had seen him around the town, complete with Father Christmas beard and large dog. He was apparently disappointed that he lived on the wrong side of the road and wouldn’t be able to vote. I’m rather fond of eccentrics (or at least harmless ones) as I often find that they have an interesting story to tell, in their own good time, of why they choose alternative lifestyles. The Town Council already has an interesting selection of characters and people with a passion for something are irreplaceable.

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