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East of England - Voter ID and the use of "Greeters" at the May 2023 election

russell scott made this Freedom of Information request to Stevenage Borough Council as part of a batch sent to 49 authorities Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

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Dear Stevenage Borough Council,

Please can you answer the following freedom of information request:

BACKGROUND INFO:

According to a recent Guardian article:

"While clerks inside polling stations will take a formal register of those lacking ID, some venues will use “greeters” outside to remind people about the need for ID before they go in. They will not record the numbers who then leave because they do not have ID and do not return to vote."

Furthermore, according to the Electoral Commission:

Greeters are official members of polling station staff, and are the responsibility of the Returning Officer. They can be used to welcome voters, remind them about the need to show ID, and help speed up the voting process.

When submitting data from polling stations, local authorities will need to tell us how many of their polling stations had at least one greeter – they do not need to report how many they had. We don’t issue specific guidance for them, but they are mentioned in our polling station handbook.

The official data on the proportion of people who were turned away, and those that later returned to the polling station with accepted ID, could only be collected by those at the ballot issuing desk, and not by greeters at the entrance. The presence of a greeter at a polling station is likely to affect the data recorded at the desk. For this reason, local authorities will need to separate out the data they will report to us into polling stations with and without greeters when submitting figures after the polls.

While we know that some potential voters will have been turned away by greeters, others will have been deterred earlier in their journey or earlier on polling day, and despite the very best efforts would remain beyond the reach of any practical data collection exercise. So, alongside the information collected from polling stations, we will also be doing public opinion surveying across England, to understand the experience of voters.

MY REQUEST:

1 - Please can you confirm if this council used "greeters" at the entrance to voting stations?

2 - Did you record the number of people turned away from voting stations by "greeters"?

3 - Please provide ALL datasets you hold regarding the number, use and impact of "Greeters" at polling stations during the recent local elections held in May 2023

4 - Please provide ALL datasets you hold regarding the use of voter ID and the impact of voter ID at the recent local elections held in May 2023

I look forward to receiving a response within 20 working days.

Yours faithfully,

Russell Scott

DPA, Stevenage Borough Council

Thank you for your email. We aim to respond to all queries within 7
working days. If your query is urgent, please contact customer services at
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stevenage@infreemation.co.uk,

****This is an automated response and acknowledgement ******

The reference number for your request is FOI/507.

 

Thank you for your request for information, which will be handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000/ Environmental
Information Regulations 2004.  You will receive a response within the
statutory timescale of 20 working days, subject to the information not
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stevenage@infreemation.co.uk,

 

Dear Russell Scott

 

Request for Information Ref: FOI/000507

 

We are writing to you in response to your email dated 31^st May 2023. Your
request has been processed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(FOI).

 

Request

 

 1. Please can you confirm if this council used “greeters" at the entrance
to voting stations?
 2. Did you record the number of people turned away from voting stations
by "greeters"?
 3. Please provide ALL datasets you hold regarding the number, use and
impact of "Greeters" at polling stations during the recent local
elections held in May 2023
 4. Please provide ALL datasets you hold regarding the use of voter ID and
the impact of voter ID at the recent local elections held in May 2023

 

Response

 

We have reviewed the specific details of your request and consider the
information requested is subject to a refusal under Section 1(1) and
Section 3(2) of the Act. This is because there is no provision in the
legislation to respond to FOI requests directed to an individual, as FOI
requests can only be made to a public authority.

 

Section 1(1) of the Act requires the Council to provide the information
requested unless we can demonstrate that an exemption applies, and
Section 3(2) sets out the circumstances in which information is ‘held’ for
the purposes of the Act. Furthermore, we can confirm that the work duties
of the Electoral Registration Officer are governed by the Representation
of the People Act 1983 (RPA) as amended.

 

Under Section 8 of the RPA, the council must appoint an officer of the
council to be the registration officer for any constituency or part of a
constituency coterminous with or situated in the council’s area. However,
this appointment is considered to be separate to any other duties that
said officer may hold for the council. This means that the Electoral
Registration Officer’s responsibilities and duties are carried out in an
individual and personal capacity. For example, the register of electors
held by the council on behalf of the Electoral Registration Officer is in
no way considered to be the property of the Council.

 

In addition, we have enclosed below a link to the list of public bodies
and local authorities that are subject to the provisions of the Freedom of
Information Act. Please note, this list does not include any person
appointed under the Representation of the People Act, which includes the
Electoral Registration Officer, Returning Officer or any other person
appointed under the Act. 

[1]http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...

 

When considering your request, we have referred to Section 3(2) which
states the following:

 

For the purposes of this Act, information is held by a public authority
if-

(a) it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another
person, or

(b) it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.

 

We are therefore satisfied that although the Council holds information
which might be relevant to your request, we have concluded that this
information is held solely on behalf of the Electoral Registration Officer
for the purposes of the ‘The Representation of the People Act 1983’, and
in accordance with the 1983 Act and regulations made under it, this
information cannot be released to respond to a FOI request. Please
therefore treat this response as a Section 17 FOI refusal notice.

 

We trust you find our response helpful, however, should you wish for our
response to be reviewed, please reply directly to this email, stating your
wish for an internal appeal. 

 

Subsequently, you can appeal to:

The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

Or via [2]https://ico.org.uk

 

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

 

Re-Use of Public Sector Information

Where Stevenage Borough Council is the copyright holder of any information
that may be released, re-used for personal, educational or non-commercial
purposes, this is permitted without further reference to the Council.
Where the re-use is for other purposes, such as commercial re-use, the
applicant should notify the Council in writing to seek approval or agree
terms for re-use.

 

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...
2. https://ico.org.uk/

Dear Stevenage Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Stevenage Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'East of England - Voter ID and the use of "Greeters" at the May 2023 election'.

The information requested is held by the LA and therefore not exempt from the FOIA - please therefore proceed to answering Q1-4. Please note the majority of other LA's within your county have provided a full response to the same set of questions.

Yours faithfully,

russell scott

DPA, Stevenage Borough Council

Dear Mr Scott,

Thank you for your email. Your request has been passed onto the Freedom of
Information Team for processing.

Kind Regards

Data Protection Team
Stevenage Borough Council
Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage, Herts, SG1 1HN
[1]www.stevenage.gov.uk

show quoted sections

noreply@infreemation.co.uk,

Dear Russell Scott,

RE Environmental/Freedom of Information Request Internal Review –
Reference [FOI/000507]

We write to acknowledge receipt of your request for an internal review
received 13th July 2023 and confirm the appeal will now be carried out by
the Council.

Once this has been completed you will receive the decision in writing. We
aim to provide you with a decision outcome within the next 20 working
days.

Kind Regards

Freedom of Information Team

 

 

stevenage@infreemation.co.uk,

 

Dear Mr Scott,

Your Request for Information Ref: FOI000507

We have now received a further response from our Electoral Team, which is
provided below.

 

Response from the Electoral Services Manager

The information the requester has referred to, is held by the Electoral
Returning Officer, who is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
regime, as initially advised in the initial response. Section 3(2) of FOIA,
sets out the criteria for determining whether information is held by a public
authority for FOIA purposes;

“For the purposes of this Act, information is held by a public authority
if

(a) it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another

person, or

(b) it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.”

The phrase “otherwise than on behalf of another person” has been interpreted
by the Commissioner, to mean that a public authority holds information for the
purposes of the FOIA, if it is held to any extent for its own purposes, as
stated in a ICO decision notice concerning London Borough of Croydon Council,
where certain electoral information requested was judged not to be held by the
Council, with particular reference given to paragraph 14
 [1]https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...,
in this case, the Council has no reason to hold the information for its own
purposes.

Furthermore, the Electoral Commission have also published guidance on what
information can be released to the public, of which the information requested
under questions 1-4 of the request, is not included, so our position remains
the same. However, the Electoral Commission has advised that the following
information can be provided, which is already published in the public domain:

• The number of polling station electors who applied for, but were not
issued with, a ballot paper = 27.
• The number of polling station electors who were not issued with a
ballot paper and who later returned with accepted ID and were issued
with a ballot paper =14.

In consideration of this further response, please let us know if you still
wish to continue with the internal review?

 

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information Team

 

 

 

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

 

Re-Use of Public Sector Information

Where Stevenage Borough Council is the copyright holder of any information
that may be released, re-used for personal, educational or non-commercial
purposes, this is permitted without further reference to the Council.
Where the re-use is for other purposes, such as commercial re-use, the
applicant should notify the Council in writing to seek approval or agree
terms for re-use.

 

 

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are russell scott please sign in and let everyone know.