The primary role of my Department in electoral matters is to provide an appropriate policy and legislative framework for a modern and efficient electoral system. Within that framework, local returning officers are responsible for all matters in connection with the actual conduct of elections and referendums, including the selection, appointment and training of polling station and count staff in accordance with the relevant provisions of electoral law.
Where two or more elections have the same polling day, as is the case for the forthcoming European Parliament and local elections to take place on 23 May 2014, regulations governing the taking of the polls may be made under section 165 of the Electoral Act 1992 to modify, as required, electoral legislation to enable the polls to be taken together. As in the case of the European Parliament and local elections held in 2009, regulations to be made under section 165 of the Electoral Act 1992 in advance of the 2014 elections will provide that arrangements in relation to polling stations, including the selection of polling staff, will be a matter for the local returning officer responsible for the European Parliament elections.
My Department routinely issues guidance to Returning Officers in advance of each election and referendum. The guidance to be issued in advance of the European Parliament and local elections being held on 23 May 2014 will emphasise that the smooth conduct of polls is dependent on maintaining a cadre of sufficiently skilled and experienced people. Having regard to that overall objective, returning officers will be advised to employ competent and efficient persons as polling staff and asked to give consideration, where possible, to employing suitable persons who are unemployed, particularly for the position of polling clerk where the responsibilities of the post can be fulfilled under the guidance of the Presiding Officer.