Chorley polling stations will not change for snap election - but use of schools is "deeply unpopular"

Planned changes to the location of polling stations in Chorley have been postponed – so voters are not confused if a snap general election is called.

By Paul Faulkner
Thursday, 19th September 2019, 5:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th September 2019, 6:44 pm
Short notice changes would have risked confusing voters
Short notice changes would have risked confusing voters

The borough is carrying out a review of where voters have to go put their cross in the box whenever they head to the polls.

A public consultation was undertaken over the summer, during which councillors and MPs were also asked for their opinion on the locations. It was thought that the yet-to-be agreed changes, which were set to be finalised in the coming weeks, would be first introduced at next May’s local elections.

But the pause button has been pressed on the process, because of the likelihood of an imminent nationwide vote.

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Short notice changes would have risked confusing voters

Papers presented to a meeting of Chorley’s full council set out the risk of overhauling the current arrangements in the short term.

“Voters [may] present themselves at the wrong polling station [or] not know where their new polling station is,” a report noted.

“Ultimately, changes to polling stations may result in some voters choosing not to vote…and there would not be enough time to mount a full publicity campaign,” it added.

The council said it could leave itself open to criticism for the timing of the changes. They will still take place in advance of local elections next year, when Chorley Council – which is usually elected in thirds, with votes held in three out of every four years – will have an all-out election, because of boundary changes. It has been agreed that the number of wards will be reduced from 20 to 14.

Deputy council leader said that revised timescale would “avoid confusion” amongst residents.

Results of the public consultation indicated that the use of schools as polling stations was "deeply unpopular" – because of the requirement for them to close on the day of the vote and the knock-on effect of parents needing to arrange childcare. Councillors heard that parents may be less tolerant of the situation because of the increased number of elections and referenda in recent years.

But schools are likely to continue to feature heavily in the list of polling stations in the borough, because of the definite availability which they offer to those charged with organising elections.

Concern was also raised by some consultation respondents about a lack of polling stations in rural areas of Chorley.