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Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013

Part 3: Postal voting: issue and receipt of ballot papers

41.Part 3 of schedule 2 sets out the rules for the handling of postal ballot papers.

42.Paragraph 20 specifies that only the counting officer and their staff may be present at the issuing of postal ballot papers, though it protects the right of representatives of the Electoral Commission and accredited observers to attend. At the receipt of the postal ballot papers, counting officers and their staff may be present, along with these representatives and observers. However, referendum agents and their nominated attendees (‘postal ballot agents’) may also attend at the receipt stage (the maximum number of attendees will be determined by the counting officer and will be the same for each referendum agent). Notice of the appointment of a postal ballot agent must be given to the counting officer in advance of the postal voters box being opened.

43.Paragraph 21 requires the counting officer to ensure that anyone attending the issue or receipt of ballot papers has been provided with a copy of the requirement of secrecy contained in paragraph 7 of schedule 7.

44.Paragraph 22 states that postal ballots are to be issued as soon as it is practicable to do so).

45.Paragraph 23 provides the rules for the issuing of postal ballot papers to the addresses shown on the postal voters or proxy postal voters lists. The voter number (as specified in the polling list) must be marked on the corresponding number list beside the unique identifying number of the ballot paper issued to that voter. A mark must also be made on the postal voters list or proxy postal voters list to denote that a ballot paper has been sent to that voter.

46.Under paragraph 24 a counting officer must issue only one ballot paper to a voter with more than one entry in the postal voters list or proxy postal voters list.

47.Under paragraph 25 a counting officer must issue two envelopes to postal voters; an envelope marked ‘A’ in which to put the completed ballot paper (‘the ballot paper envelope’); and an envelope marked ‘B’ in which to return envelope A along with the postal voting statement.

48.Paragraph 26 requires the counting officer to seal the corresponding number lists in a packet after the issue of each batch of ballot papers, and to maintain the security of the marked postal voters list and proxy postal voters lists up until that point.

49.Paragraph 27 provides that all postage costs for postal ballot papers must be pre-paid, except return postage for postal voters whose ballot pack is sent to an address outside of the UK.

50.Paragraph 28 makes provision for a postal voter who accidentally spoils their ballot paper or postal voting statement to return them, along with the envelopes supplied, to the counting officer and to receive a replacement postal ballot pack. To receive a replacement ballot paper after 5pm on the day before the poll, the ballot pack must be returned in person.

51.The counting officer must, under sub-paragraphs (6) and (7), immediately cancel any returned postal ballot packs and put them into a sealed packet. Under sub-paragraph (9), the counting officer must keep a ‘list of spoilt ballot papers’ detailing the name and number of the voter and the ballot paper number, and, where the postal voter is a proxy, their name and address.

52.Paragraph 29 allows a postal voter who has lost or has not received their postal ballot paper, postal voting statement or return envelopes by the fourth day before the poll, to apply to the counting officer for a replacement in the same way as described in paragraph 27.

53.Paragraph 30 provides for situations in which any of the events listed in sub-paragraph (2) occurs after the voter or the voter’s proxy has been issued with a postal ballot paper. The occurrence of one of those events means that the voter or proxy either is no longer entitled to vote by post, or has asked for the paper to be sent to a different address. The registration officer must notify the counting officer that the event has occurred. The postal ballot paper that has been issued (‘the superseded postal ballot paper’) is void. The counting officer must cancel the previously issued documents (the superseded postal ballot paper and the postal voting statement) to ensure that the ballot paper has no effect. Where the event is a change in the address to which a postal ballot paper is to be sent, a replacement postal ballot paper must be sent to that address. The voter or proxy is required to return the superseded postal ballot paper and its associated documents. A list of superseded ballot papers must be kept, containing the details specified in sub-paragraph (10).

54.Paragraph 31 requires the counting officer to give at least 48 hours’ notice in writing to the referendum agents appointed for their area of the opening of any postal ballot box and its contents. They must include details of the time and place and the number of postal ballot agents permitted.

55.Paragraph 32 requires the counting officer to provide separate boxes to collect covering envelopes and postal ballot papers, marked with their purpose and the name of the local government area. The box must be shown to any postal ballot agents to prove that it is empty before being locked and sealed by the counting officer (and any postal ballot agent who wishes to attach their own seal).

56.Sub-paragraph (5) requires the counting officer to provide separate containers for rejected votes, postal voting statements, ballot paper envelopes, rejected ballot paper envelopes, votes rejected during the verification procedure, and postal voting statements rejected during the verification procedure.

57.Sub-paragraph (6) requires the counting officer to ensure the safety and security of all of the boxes described in this paragraph.

58.Paragraph 33 requires the counting officer to place any returned postal vote covering envelopes (and any other envelopes which contain a ballot paper, ballot paper envelope or postal voting statement) immediately into a postal voters box.

59.Sub-paragraphs (3) and (4) allow the counting officer to collect, or arrange to have collected, any postal ballot papers which have been delivered to polling stations. These should be contained in packets, sealed by the presiding officer and any polling agent who wishes to attach their own seal.

60.Paragraph 34 states that each postal voters box must be opened by the counting officer in front of any postal ballot agents in attendance. As long as one box remains sealed to receive covering envelopes until the close of poll, the counting officer may open the other boxes. The last postal voters box and the postal ballot box must be opened along with the counting of the rest of the votes under the conduct rules.

61.Paragraph 35 requires the counting officer to count and record the number of covering envelopes in each opened box, and to set aside at least 20% of each box for verification of the personal identifiers (signature and date of birth). The counting officer must then open each of the remaining covering envelopes, keeping the ballot papers face downwards. The counting officer and the counting officer’s staff must not look at the corresponding number list used at the issuing of the postal ballot papers during this process.

62.Where the envelope is missing either a postal voting statement or ballot paper envelope (or, where there is no ballot paper envelope, is missing a ballot paper), the counting officer should mark the covering envelope ‘provisionally rejected’ and place it, with its contents attached, into the container for rejected votes.

63.Under sub-paragraph (9), where the envelope does contain a postal voting statement, the counting officer should mark the marked copy of the postal voters list or proxy postal voters list with a separate, clear mark, to highlight that the voter has returned their postal vote.

64.Sub-paragraph (11) requires the counting officer, once the last covering envelope has been opened, to make a sealed packet containing the marked postal voters list and proxy postal voters list.

65.Paragraph 36 allows anyone on the postal voters list or proxy postal voters list to request confirmation from the counting officer that their postal voting statement has been received at any time between the issuing of the postal ballots and the close of the poll.

66.Paragraph 37 requires the counting officer to check all postal voting statements which have not been set aside for verification and judge whether they have been properly completed. If the statement has not been properly completed, the counting officer should mark the statement ‘rejected’, attach it to the ballot paper envelope or ballot paper, show it to the postal ballot agents who may object to the counting officer’s decision (in which case the envelope should be marked ‘rejection objected to’) and add it to the container for rejected votes.

67.The counting officer must then compare the numbers on the postal voting statements with those on the ballot paper envelopes. If the numbers match, the postal voting statements and ballot paper envelopes should be placed in their respective containers. Where they do not match, or where there is a valid postal voting statement but no ballot paper envelope, the counting officer should mark the documents ‘provisionally rejected’ and put them in the container for rejected votes.

68.Paragraph 38 applies to envelopes which have been set aside for verification under paragraph 36. The counting officer must open the envelope and judge whether it has been properly completed, including comparing the signature and date of birth on the postal voting statement with those contained in the record of personal identifiers. Votes rejected under this paragraph should be placed in the rejected votes (verification procedure) container. The postal ballot agents must be shown the postal voting statement, permitted to view the personal identifiers record and may object to the decision, in which case the statement will be marked to show that the rejection was objected to.

69.Paragraph 39 allows the counting officer to check at any time the personal identifiers on a postal voting statement which has been placed in the postal voting statements container. If the counting officer is not satisfied that the signatures or dates of birth match, the statement should be marked ‘rejected’, shown to the postal ballot agents (who are permitted to object) and placed in the container for rejected votes (verification procedure), along with the corresponding ballot paper which should be retrieved from the postal ballot paper box. The counting officer must keep the ballot papers face downwards when retrieving them and re-seal the box in the presence of ballot paper agents.

70.Paragraph 40 requires the counting officer to open the ballot paper envelopes and place the ballot papers in the postal ballot box, except where the ballot paper envelope is empty, or where the number on the ballot paper does not match the number on the ballot paper envelope (in which case they should be marked ‘provisionally rejected’ and placed in the containers for rejected ballot paper envelopes or the container for rejected ballot papers respectively).

71.Paragraph 41 allows the counting officer to retrieve any cancelled ballot paper which has been placed in a postal voters box, postal ballot box or the container for ballot paper envelopes.

72.Paragraph 42 requires the counting officer to keep a list of the ballot paper numbers of any postal ballot paper which was received without a corresponding postal voting statement; and a separate list of the ballot paper numbers of any postal ballot papers which were not received with the corresponding postal voting statement.

73.Paragraph 43 provides that where a postal voting statement is received with no attached ballot paper, or vice versa, the counting officer should check to see whether the corresponding papers are included on either of the lists described above. If the papers can be matched, the counting officer must act as though the papers had not been marked ‘provisionally rejected’ and must treat the papers accordingly.

74.Paragraph 44 requires the counting officer, as soon as possible after the matching of papers under paragraph 43 above, to make up separate sealed packets containing the contents of the containers of rejected votes, postal voting statements, rejected ballot paper envelopes, rejected votes (verification procedure), postal voting statements (verification procedure), and the lists of spoilt, lost and superseded ballot papers.

75.Under paragraph 45, the counting officer is required to send all of the sealed packets to the proper officer of the local authority along with the other documents to be sent as part of the conduct rules in Schedule 3 and a statement of the contents and date. A copy of this statement should be provided to the Electoral Commission. Where any papers are received too late to be included in the packs the counting officer should package and send these separately.

76.Paragraph 46 allows the Chief Counting Officer to prescribe forms to be used under paragraphs 10 and 45. Where the forms are prescribed by the Chief Counting Officer, they may be used with such variations as circumstances require.

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