Agenda item

Agenda item

Election Act 2022

Report of the Chief Executive.


This report outlines the planning and governance arrangements for the implementation of the Elections Act in Manchester, with specific focus on voter registrations, polling station accessibility and voter ID requirements.



The committee considered a report of the Chief Executive, which outlined the planning and governance arrangements for the implementation of the Elections Act in Manchester.


Key points and themes within the report included:


  • The Elections Act 2022 was introduced to make new provision for and amendments to existing electoral law and will come into effect over the next two years, impacting delivery of Local Elections in 2023, the Local and Mayoral Elections in 2024, and the next Parliamentary General Election;
  • The main legislative changes, including:
    • Requiring voters to show an approved form of photo ID at polling stations before a ballot paper is issued
    • A requirement to provide reasonable equipment to assist voters with disabilities in polling stations
    • Allowing all British citizens living overseas to vote in UK Parliamentary elections, regardless of when they left the UK, with applications required every 3 years
    • Enabling electors to apply online for an absent vote, with both online and paper applications requiring the applicant’s identity to be verified
    • Requiring postal voters to reapply every three years
    • Further limit to the number of people an elector may act as proxy for
    • Political campaigners will no longer be permitted to handle postal votes, and the number of postal votes an individual can hand in at a polling station will be limited.
    • A review of the eligibility to vote for some EU citizens
  • The scheduled implementation of these changes and suitable ID for voters to show at polling stations;
  • Work was underway within the Council to plan the ‘front door’ access, and what is required for the electors’ journey and processing of their enquiry;
  • Modelling work had been undertaken with the support of Performance, Research and Intelligence (PRI) to determine what transaction volumes could look like in polling stations, to model resourcing requirements;
  • Staff numbers had been increased per station and an additional five stations have been added to polling places where historical information indicated a larger turnout;
  • Detail of the ‘customer journey’ in a station or the processes to check ID had not been finalised and shared by central government;
  • The Elections Strategic Lead for Greater Manchester was leading on a project to seek a consistent approach to reasonable equipment and processes at all Polling Stations across the ten Greater Manchester Districts and meetings are taking place with GM Disabled persons groups to take their views on what can be delivered and how to communicate these provisions to disabled voters;
  • The Electoral Commission will run a high-profile national campaign to raise awareness of the requirement for Voter ID, targeting those who may not already have the required photographic ID and a GM-wide approach to amplify this was proposed; and
  • Members will be briefed on the changes being implemented, with initial focus around changes affecting May 2023 polls. The Member Working Group will also be re-established to provide regular updates as more information becomes available.


Key points and themes which arose from the committee’s discussions included:


  • The need for any specific electoral communications to be easily distinguished from other Council campaigns;
  • Commending the inclusion of videos in British Sign Language to communicate changes around Voter Authority Certificates (VAC);
  • Why only four housing associations were listed within the 2023 local elections communications approach;
  • Whether members would be briefed on progress with implementing the changes arising from the Elections Act;
  • Accessibility within polling stations and what flexibility there was to respond to unforeseen circumstances such as rain;
  • When further information on the customer journey in polling stations and written training information was expected from central government;
  • Noting that VACs can be applied for up until 6 working days before Election Day, and querying whether the Council had capacity to support this short timescale;
  • Whether any Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) had been devised to monitor a return on investment in the joint campaign across Greater Manchester;
  • If the joint GM campaign would utilise advertising space on screens across the city;
  • Whether any additional funding would be provided from central government to mitigate the costs associated with changes introduced by the Election Act; and

·         Communications regarding voting by post, and whether postal voting would be encouraged as an alternative to the new voter ID arrangements.


The Chair began discussions on the item by quoting a British Politics and Policy paper from the London School of Economics (LSE) which stated “Conservative MPs frame voter ID as necessary to strengthen confidence in the electoral system despite public confidence in the running of elections being at its highest” and a piece by a Young Voices UK contributor published on the Conservative Home website, which declared “The government has failed to offer a compelling justification for voter ID requirement beyond fearmongering about non-existent fraud. These new guidelines seem to be little more than a rushed attempt to grant themselves a slightly less embarrassing election result by excluding groups more likely to vote for a non-Tory candidate”.


In introducing the item, the City Solicitor explained that elections were ran well in Manchester in part due to a strong core Elections Team and the use of the whole organisation during the election periods. She clarified that the Election Act would come into effect over time and that two key changes would be implemented from May 2023 – voter ID and further accessibility requirements. The Electoral Commission’s consultation on voter ID was ongoing and the Council would wait to begin a communications campaign until the VAC application portal was launched. 


The Leader of the Council stated that around 2 million people across the UK would be impacted by the changes introduced within the Election Act as a result of not having the appropriate forms of ID required and that this would disproportionately impact those from disadvantaged and deprived communities and those at risk of social exclusion. She highlighted the serious and focused effort of the Council’s Elections team and reiterated that the Council would amplify communications from the Electoral Commission and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in addition to its own targeted campaign.


The Head of Strategic Communications responded to members enquiries and provided assurances that the Council’s communications on VACs would be distinguishable from other campaigns. These would be created in the same style and using the same graphics as the Electoral Commission’s campaign, which featured a range of different colours. The format of communications would also be in line with the GM-wide approach.


A need for the communications to be wide-reaching was acknowledged and it was confirmed that the list of housing associations identified as channels for communication with residents was not exhaustive. Members were asked to contact the Communications team with details of other housing or community organisations who could help to reach residents.


The Electoral Services Corporate Delivery Manager explained that annual reviews were undertaken to ensure the accessibility of polling stations and risk assessments would be carried out with Presiding Officers, given their knowledge and experience of their polling station. Work was also being undertaken with GMCA and disability groups to ensure a consistent approach.


With regards to the flexibility of polling stations in dealing with unforeseen challenges and demand, members were advised that command and control hubs were in operation on Election Day and Polling Station Inspectors (PSIs) attended polling stations throughout the day. It was noted that transaction times in polling stations may be longer as a result of the Election Act’s provisions and busier polling stations and staffing levels were being reviewed in response to this to mitigate queues and waiting times. 


Members were also advised that other cultural and social requirements could be met, for example all polling stations would have moveable privacy screens for those wearing facial coverings and the number of female polling station staff was currently being finalised. Further information on this would be provided to members once complete.


Assurances were also provided that the changes arising from the Election Act would be covered in the Candidate and Agent Briefing and a Member Briefing was anticipated to be held.


In response to members’ questions around capacity to manage the supply of VACs up to 6 days before an election, the City Solicitor advised that processes and resources were being put in place to enable VACs to be issued as soon as the government’s online portal was launched. The Customer Services team had also employed additional staff to deal with telephone enquiries and all customer-facing employees within Customer Services had been briefed on the changes and timescales. The Electoral Services Corporate Delivery Manager also assured that her team was familiar with working to deadlines and time constraints given the nature of their roles. It was noted that there may be external challenges or issues around delivery of VACs, given the recent industrial action by Royal Mail, and officers would continue to monitor the situation.


Assurances were provided that additional staffing requirements had been adequately budgeted for and that the Council would apply for all available grants and funding sources to offset any financial implication on the authority, although it was acknowledged that any grants or funding would typically be received after expenditure. 


The Head of Strategic Communications informed the committee that it was difficult to scope KPIs for the communication campaign, but the Council would be able to measure and identify trends in social media engagement and the number of calls to the contact centre around key dates for the campaign.


Members were also advised, in response to a query, that GMCA’s campaign approach included advertising on digital screens across the city. The costs involved in the purchase of this advertising space would be part-funded by Manchester City Council and by the Electoral Commission.


In response to a query from the Chair regarding whether postal voting would be encouraged as an alternative to the new voter ID arrangements, it was stated that the Council would not actively promote one method of voting over another and the level of communications encouraging residents to register for a postal vote would remain the same as previous years. Residents would, however, be encouraged to register for a postal vote earlier if they wished to vote via this method.


The Chair wished the Elections team and all staff involved in the running of elections good luck.




That the Committee notes


  1. the progress being made by the Elections Team and the Election Steering Group in relation to changes that will be introduced by the Election Act 2022 for the Local Elections on 4 May 2023;
  2. the communication plan for local residents with regard to the changes for the May 2023 polls; and
  3. the changes that will be introduced for polls after the local elections 2023.

Supporting documents: