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Range of measures to be brought in for Covid-secure Kent County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections this May


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Voters in Kent will be told to bring their own pen or pencil to the ballot box for Covid-secure elections this May.

Kent County Council's (KCC) monitoring officer, Benjamin Watts, in charge of organising the local votes in the 13 districts this year, yesterday revealed a number of "significant changes" to the way they will be carried out.

Social distancing and wearing face masks are just two of the new measures voters will face - and don't forget your pencil
Social distancing and wearing face masks are just two of the new measures voters will face - and don't forget your pencil

This will include mandatory wearing of face masks for all staff and voters while leafleting and door knocking by candidates and their teams will be banned.

It comes just weeks before people decide who to elect as the next Kent Police and Crime Commissioner on Thursday, May 6, and the 81 county councillors at Maidstone County Hall.

At a KCC meeting, Mr Watts said: "It is worth noting the considerable pressure this is going to put on the democratic services team across the county."

New arrangements have been put in place to make the ballot venues more Covid-secure, with a portion of £92million of government funds being used to address the forecast high costs for councils to set them up.

At the polls, social distancing will put a limit on the number of people allowed inside and outside the venues.

Candidates are to be banned from knocking on doors during the run-up to the elections
Candidates are to be banned from knocking on doors during the run-up to the elections

It has also emerged that the delivery of election mail and ballot packs will be prioritised by Royal Mail amid the pandemic.

Car sharing will be allowed, but political candidates are discouraged from picking up members of the public to take them to and from polling stations.

Concerns have been raised by some councillors about the decision to prohibit leafleting and door knocking despite the election being "complicated" to run.

Mr Watts told a virtual panel: "Small parties have expressed their concerns to me about their ability to effectively campaign in the current environment."

Meanwhile, the number of people required to nominate councillors has dropped from 10 to two for the May elections.

A raft of measures will be brought in to make sure it is safe to select county councillors and a new police and crime commissioner
A raft of measures will be brought in to make sure it is safe to select county councillors and a new police and crime commissioner

Additional proxy voting - casting a vote on behalf of someone else - will be allowed by the government to help people affected by Covid.

The pre-election period will begin from March 19 as Maidstone County Hall cabinet members push through "necessary" decisions over the coming weeks.

Further details about the logistical arrangements in place will be revealed at a later date.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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