Officials urge government to postpone May 7 elections over coronavirus

Boris Johnson leaves a polling station after casting his vote in an election. Photograph: Ian Nichol

Boris Johnson leaves a polling station after casting his vote in an election. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA. - Credit: PA

Elections chiefs have urged the government to consider postponing the local elections if the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

The Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) warned there may be insufficient staff to keep all polling stations open due to Covid-19 sickness or self-isolation.

The group has written to constitution minister Chloe Smith outlining officials' concerns about the May 7 elections, which include councils and for the London mayor.

AEA chief executive Peter Stanyon called for guidance on how to sanitise polling stations and warned that some temporary staff are turning down polling station work due to the risk of contracting the virus.

'Returning Officers will work hard to recruit new people, but if the outbreak worsens as we approach May 7, we are worried that there will simply not be enough staff to keep all stations open,' he wrote.

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'This could be made worse if someone who attends polling station training were to show symptoms, leading to all staff at that training session needing to self-isolate.'

He added: 'We would also urge you to look at the legal basis for postponing polls, both for individual areas and across the UK, should the situation worsen as we approach May 7.'

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The government was monitoring the spread of the coronavirus ahead of the polls.

Smith said: 'We are working to facilitate the local, mayoral, and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 7 May.

'My officials and I are engaging with the Association of Electoral Administrators to ensure we are working together effectively to deliver this.'

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