How Covid-19 has affected the local elections in Sheffield

Covid-19 changed every aspect of life over the past year so it was unsurprising that the first local elections since the start of the pandemic looked a little different.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 2:58 pm

Months of planning has led up to this week and a team of around 1,300 staff and volunteers have worked hard to deliver this unique election in a safe and efficient way.

Kate Josephs chief executive of Sheffield Council and returning officer, said: “We have a fabulous team at Sheffield. I’m sure many people who turn out to vote every year don’t stop to think what goes on behind, previously I don’t think I did, but it’s amazing to see and particularly this year with Covid.”

From polling booths and postal votes to announcing the results, everything was organised with Covid in mind.

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Polling station.

Ms Josephs said: “Obviously at polling stations, which is the thing voters will see, you’ll see as you come in that we have hand sanitizer, everyone is wearing masks, we have got screens, floor splats – as they are called – to make sure people are spaced out, we are asking people to bring their own pens and pencils, all of our polling station staff are having regular testing in the run up and during the process.

“In the behind the scenes bit of the work, at the moment in the Town Hall we have got teams whose job it is to open all of the postal votes. Normally, we would have that team in one room, they are spread out over about five rooms in the Town Hall. There is lots of sanitising and lots of screens.

“The count is also going to feel very different, we are lucky to use the English Institute of Sport which is a huge venue but we are still spreading out – we are using the basketball court, the netball court and we have got very spaced out count stations and lots of screens and actually this year we are really limiting the number of people there.”

She also said nobody else will be on stage when she is announcing the results of the count.

Some of the election team stepped down from helping out this year due to Covid concerns but it has meant new people have got involved for the first time.

The patterns of people visiting polling stations yesterday was also a bit different to normal, Ms Josephs said, as the usual early morning and late night rush was reduced by a steadier flow of voters throughout the day, likely due to more people working from home.

Rosie Choppin, polling station officer in Crookes and Crosspool, said turnout seemed similar to normal local elections.

She said: “We have had a steady trickle through. We had about a 150 through so far by about lunchtime. We don’t expect huge numbers for a local election but we have had a steady amount through.”

City and parish council results will be announced today and referendum and police and crime commissioner results will be announced on Monday, 8 May.