Steven Broomhead is the returning officer for the election in Warrington.

Here he talks through the logisitics of planning for the big day

THE December 12 General Election is the third such election since 2015 with the other being held in 2017.

As ever locally it will be a great team effort involving more than 500 staff to ensure that you can exercise your democratic right to chose your MP to sit among 649 others in Parliament.

As the Returning Officer for our two parliamentary constituencies I am often asked questions about its organisation and costs. The overall cost of the election in the town is approximately £295k which is totally funded by central government – that’s approximately £1.80 per eligible voter.

For those of you who roll your eyes at this figure this is the cost of democracy and having your say. On average the turnout for elections is approximately 68 per cent for both constituencies and in 2010 in the North the eligible electorate was 71,654 and the South 80,370.

For the 2019 election this has increased to 74,553 and 87,855 respectively.

I have been the returning officer since 1997 (with a break) and during that time I have not encountered any ‘minor, minor’ parties such as the ‘Monster Raving Loony Party’ who fielded 12 candidates nationally in 2017 to gain 3,890 votes or the solitary ‘Church of the Militant Elvis Party’ who convinced 195 electors to cast their vote in its favour.

On December 12 there will be 125 polling stations open from 7am to 10pm. We have worked well with our 22 schools which will have polling stations located within their premises to ensure there is no disturbance to important festive Nativity events and important Christmas fair fundraising.

The 125 ballot boxes we will use have to be transported to the Count Centre in Birchwood by 11.30pm so that we can begin the count process which this year we expect will conclude in the very early morning – making it a possible 22 hour day for some of the staff involved.

The election is run under strict legal and statutory processes. All complaints come via the elections manager or myself. If an offence is deemed to have been committed it is referred directly to the police.

It is worth bearing in mind that the system is fully paper driven with approximately 100,000 paper ballot slips to be verified and accurately counted. Full precautions are being taken in respect to cold/wintry weather. While there is anecdote that poor weather affects turnout there is no established evidence.

So I hope that this background has increased your appetite to exercise your democratic right to cast your vote in which many commentators are describing as the most important election in years. Regardless of who wins this should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.