Coronavirus UK outbreak: Boris urged to SCRAP May elections by Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission said today the “risk” of holding a series of votes across Britain would still be high in May.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office, Bob Posner, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, has called on the government to delay the May 7 2020 elections following its announcement to enter the delay phase of its strategy to control the spread of COVID-19.

The Mayor of London and London Assembly elections will see voters in London boroughs cast their votes for who they want to be mayor and their constituency member as well as 11 London-wide Assembly Members. But Londoners are among the most at risk of catching the virus with the highest number of cases in a concentrated area, with 104 to date.

And with over 500 confirmed cases across the UK, the commission has said the virus will block politicians from campaigning effectively and prevent voters from casting their vote at the ballot box.

With over 500 confirmed cases, the commission has said the virus will block politicians from campaigning effectively and prevent voters from casting their vote at the ballot box.

From Friday, anyone in the UK showing cold or flu-like symptoms are being asked to self isolate for seven days, as the government’s chief scientific adviser says there are likely between 5,000 and 10,000 people infected with the virus.

Consequently, the government is being urged to postpone the election until autumn.

Mr Posner wrote in the letter: “In light of the current and emerging situation around Covid-19 in the UK, I wanted to write to set out the Commission’s concerns about the real risks to the successful delivery of the scheduled 7 May 2020 elections.

“It has already become clear that the risks are so significant as to raise serious concerns about the polls continuing to their current timetable.”

While polling day is not for eight weeks, preparations for elections are underway and the start of the formal timetable takes place later this month. 

The commission raised concerns over politicians’ ability to reach the general public, if many forms of campaigning are not possible. It is vital that voters are able to hear the positions of candidates, parties and campaigners before casting their vote, but there may be insufficient space for arguments to be heard, it said.

Meanwhile, local authorities are unsure of whether they will be able to provide polling station venues that are secure, staffed and accessible in light of the challenges the coronavirus poses, Mr Posner added. Chief executives of local authorities and their staff across the country are preoccupied with managing the impact of COVID-19 on their localities - not the election, it adds.

“The risks to delivery that have been identified are such that we cannot be confident that voters will be able to participate in the polls safely and confidently, nor that campaigners and parties will be able to put their case to the electorate,” the letter said.

This is a developing story, more to follow…

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