Andrew Kerr: Have your say in Edinburgh today

Andrew Kerr, Returning Officer for Edinburgh and Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council, writes in today's Evening News on holding Edinburgh's vote in the Scottish Parliament Election.

Read Andrew Kerr's piece in today's issue of the Evening News (Thursday, 5 May).

Months of preparation will pay off today when the polls open and the city’s hundreds of thousands of voters stream in to our 145 polling places to have their say on who should represent them in the Scottish Parliament.

Already, hundreds of staff have been trained, polling cards issued and many of the postal votes verified, but today will see the majority of voters play their own vital part in the process, by marking a cross on each of their two ballot papers.

I have been preparing too – while I am a veteran of 15 previous elections elsewhere, this is my first major election as Returning Officer for Scotland’s capital and I want to be ready to take command of this unique event.

Since joining the City of Edinburgh Council last July, I have been reminded of the diversity of the city’s different neighbourhoods and communities and its varied cultures and events. It is an exciting time for this vibrant city. 

Now polling day is finally here, my staff are ready to spring into action, following well-worn steps which have supported the delivery of democracy over decades in Edinburgh. 

During the day today, from 7am until 10pm, thousands of residents will cast their votes.  With more than 366,000 on the electoral roll – including, for the first time, 16 and 17-year-old voters - we are hoping for the same high turnout Edinburgh has experienced over recent years.

Come 10pm tonight, polling place doors will close, ballot boxes will be sealed and securely taken to the Royal Highland Centre.  Until the early hours of Friday morning, our 1200 count staff will be focused on the papers – counting the total number in the boxes so we can account for every paper issued then sorting them into piles for each candidate or party before the final results are revealed.

Until now, I have observed Edinburgh’s professional delivery of electoral events like this from afar, watching the Scottish Referendum in 2014 and the UK General Election last year with great interest as the city’s vote played out on an international stage.  I’ve been impressed at the enthusiasm for democracy amongst the public in this city, with high turnouts each year, and hope to see this continue for the Scottish Election.

Now, as I assume the role and responsibilities of Returning Officer for Edinburgh’s six constituencies, your participation as voters in this election is something I take very seriously.  I am also charged with announcing the Lothian Region results, incorporating the votes from Almond Valley, Linlithgow and Midlothian North & Musselburgh and adding them to our own six constituencies to elect seven additional MSPs. 

With the EU Referendum looming and the Council elections next year, this is a pivotal time for voters in Edinburgh, and I look forward to taking responsibility for the city’s vote in these events too.

Back to the present, and in the Scottish Parliament Election, I hope to see as many people as possible turning out to have a say, creating a memorable and successful event.  

You can find out more about voting in the Scottish Parliament Election on the Council website, including information on the candidates standing and where and how to vote.

Find out more about voting in Edinburgh on the Council website. 

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