Could May's local elections be held outdoors?

South Wootton Polling Station near King's Lynn - Alfie the Dog waits for his owner. Picture: Matthew

South Wootton Polling Station near King's Lynn - Alfie the Dog waits for his owner. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

We need to organise now and look at measures like outdoor voting if the May elections are to go ahead, A Norfolk MP has said.

Cabinet Office minister and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said local elections should go ahead in May - although the situation was being kept "under review" due to the pandemic.

Many areas of the county will have at least two elections this May, for the county council and Police and Crime Commissioner.

Norwich is the only area to have three, where there is also a round of city council elections.

Labour's Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, welcomed voting going ahead but stressed the need to follow the science. 

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Images

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis welcomed voting going ahead but stressed we must follow the science - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Mr Lewis said: "A massive drive, organised now, to ensure as many people as possible could postal vote along with scientifically backed safety measures such as outdoor voting would be the right way to go.

"Our democracy is important and if other countries can hold large elections safely we should be able to as well.

"Of course we must be lead by the science, but I’d have thought such an operation both feasible and desirable."

Most Read

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said the elections going ahead was entirely "in the hands of Covid" and if the government was going to cancel them it should be sooner rather than later. 

Norwich City Council Labour leader Alan Waters. Picture: Ian Burt

Leader of Norwich City Alan Waters said if there was to be a U-turn it should be done soon - Credit: Archant

"The timing of the elections is going to be contingent on where we are with Covid," Mr Waters said.

"The reality is time is ticking on and a last-minute u-turn will not be helpful.

"The last date the government could cancel them would be March 26, after that there's a legal requirement for them to go ahead."

Mr Waters said throughout the process it would be difficult to maintain social distancing, with traditional canvassing almost impossible and even counting postal votes requiring people to be together in a room.

On outdoor polling, Mr Waters raised concerns about security and having to have people in a room together to count them afterwards, but was not against the idea. 

Adding: "We would still have to be very careful."

Ms Smith told the House of Commons a "high bar" would need to be cleared in order for the government to delay the elections.