Behind the scenes at the Melton General Election count

The Rutland and Melton candidates at the General Election hustings event at Melton Baptist Church, from left, Andy Thomas (Lab), Dr Carol Weaver (Lib Dem), Alastair McQullian (Green), Alicia Kearns (Con) and Marietta King (Ukip) EMN-190312-101634001
The Rutland and Melton candidates at the General Election hustings event at Melton Baptist Church, from left, Andy Thomas (Lab), Dr Carol Weaver (Lib Dem), Alastair McQullian (Green), Alicia Kearns (Con) and Marietta King (Ukip) EMN-190312-101634001
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When Melton’s new MP is announced at around 5am on Friday morning it will bring to an end a complex logistical exercise involving hundreds of people over a period of almost 24 hours.

It all starts tomorrow (Thursday) with polling station staff opening up more than 100 venues for residents to cast their votes from 7am.

656464-12 : �Lionel Heap : News : Rutland & Melton Parliamentary Election Count 2017 : Candidates and their agents watch the count. Sir Alan Duncan (Conservative) and Alastair McQuillan (Green Party) (centre). EMN-191112-105513001

656464-12 : �Lionel Heap : News : Rutland & Melton Parliamentary Election Count 2017 : Candidates and their agents watch the count. Sir Alan Duncan (Conservative) and Alastair McQuillan (Green Party) (centre). EMN-191112-105513001

And from shortly after 10pm ballot boxes will then be transported to the count, which will be held for the first time in the sports hall at Melton Sports Village (MSV).

Dozens of counters will then be tasked with totting up the votes for the five candidates vying to succeed Sir Alan Duncan, who decided not to stand again after serving 27 years as MP for Rutland and Melton.

Melton Borough Council is co-ordinating the General Election vote for the Rutland and Melton constituency and the Melton Times was given a behind-the-scenes briefing this week as staff prepared for what will be a gruelling working day for them.

The nation normally goes to the polls in May but this process has been complicated with a snap election having been called for just a fortnight before Christmas.

The sports hall at Melton Sports Village is ready for the count to take place for the General Election EMN-191012-155422001

The sports hall at Melton Sports Village is ready for the count to take place for the General Election EMN-191012-155422001

Some traditional polling stations are unavailable with the festive season in full swing.

There is a Christmas event already booked at Quorn Lodge in the town, for example, so voters in Egerton Ward will instead put their tick in a box at Venture House.

One of the quirkier polling stations in this area is at Garthorpe, where a resident makes his caravan available for elections.

Unfortunately he had already arranged to go away for Christmas so villagers will instead have to travel to nearby Freeby Village Hall to cast their vote.

Other alternative poll booths have been set up at The Cove community centre in Melton and at Valley Christian Centre at Harby to replace previously used venues St Peter and St Paul’s Church and
Harby Village Hall, respectively.

Other quirky polling stations include a resident’s private garage at Harston, which has to be cleared out each time to enable people to vote, and St Leonards Church at Holwell, where voters have to walk down the aisle before voting.

There are 121 polling stations where votes are collated for our constituency and these include those in the Rutland County Council area and the north of Harborough District Council area.

Each station is manned by two poll clerks and a presiding officer with council officials visiting each one twice during the day to check they are operating properly.

Staff say there has been an unprecedented response to registering to vote in this particular election with around 65 to 70 per cent of the 82,000 electorate expected to take part in the ballot.

It will be a long night for the 64 counters who will have the task of counting all the votes – they will arrive in the sports hall shortly after 9pm and most won’t leave until the result is declared.

Melton Scouts are helping this year to marshall the car park at MSV.

The count is not open to the public but is attended by candidates, their agents and support staff, organising officials and the media.

The first ballot box is expected to arrive around 10.10pm, from one of the nearer polling stations in the town, with the last ones unlikely to be delivered until around midnight, from stations at the edge of the constituency area.

Peak arrival time for ballot boxes is between 10.30pm and 11.15pm which will spark the busiest period of the night for the counters, who all apply to take part and who are each paid a fee of around £100.

Acting returning officer is Melton Borough Council chief executive Edd de Coverly, but it will be Mayor of Melton, Councillor Malise Graham, the returning officer, who will officially declare the result.

As the victorious candidate celebrates being elected to parliament the army of people who helped make the election happen will begin to make their way home for some much needed sleep.

***The funeral of Anthony Watchorn, who was due to stand in the election as an Independent, will take place tomorrow (Thursday) at Whissendine Parish Church at 2pm.

Mr Watchorn, who was 69 and leaves a partner, Cherry, and children Roy, Lisa and Thira, passed away on November 27 surrounded by his family.

His name will remain on the ballot papers today in line with Representation of the People Act 1983.