Sue Bruce: Dawn breaks to see democracy in action

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When dawn broke and the polls opened this morning, Edinburgh’s part in the General Election began in earnest as hundreds of thousands of residents started to cast their votes.

In reality, Edinburgh has been gearing up to this day for months.

With more than 1300 staff helping to make sure the vote runs smoothly, we have been busy with logistics, training, planning and spreading information.

Until late last night, teams of staff were delivering equipment and setting up the city’s 145 different polling places – buildings that include hotels, primary schools, community centres and even a mobile library.

And now polling day is finally here staff have sprung into action, following a process which has supported the delivery of democracy over the decades in Edinburgh.

For me, the day marks my last General Election as Returning Officer for Edinburgh after several eventful years and a series of major electoral events, including Scottish Parliament elections, local council elections and last year’s Scottish Independence Referendum.

Across Edinburgh, from 6.15am, staff were busy preparing the city’s polling places, ensuring they were ready for the doors to open at 7am.

During the day until 10pm 
thousands of residents will cast their votes. With 357,929 registered to vote – around 70 per cent of the city’s population – we are hoping to see the turnout of last year’s referendum, which saw a record-breaking 84 per cent.

Today will be the first time we stage the city’s count in the EICC, the Council’s award-winning, state-of-the-art venue.

Come 10pm tonight, polling place doors will close, ballot boxes will be sealed and securely taken to the EICC. Following security checks to ensure the boxes have been transported safely papers will begin to land on counting tables at about 10.45pm.

Until the early hours of Friday morning, our 515 count staff will be focused on sorting through papers – counting the total number first, revealing the turnout, then sorting them and counting them into piles for each candidate. During the night my colleagues and I will be liaising with candidates and agents, speaking to the media and overseeing the count as everyone waits for the final results.

The crux of the whole election comes when the names of the new MPs are announced and broadcast to the nation.

At 11am the next day specially appointed Royal Mail officers will collect the official Writs, completed with the names of the city’s five new MPs. These are what must be returned to the House of Commons.

If you have not yet voted, now is the time. Polling places remain open until 10pm, giving everyone on the electoral roll plenty of opportunity to have their say on who their MP should be. We don’t want anyone missing out on this important vote because they are not sure how to, so please make sure you fill out your ballot paper correctly, with a single “X” in the box next to the candidate of your choice.

Whilst the delivery of the Edinburgh’s election is my personal responsibility as Returning Officer and one I take very seriously, I have a first class team led by Chris Highcock Senior Depute Returning Officer and great credit goes to them and colleagues from across the council who make this huge event happen.

We urge everyone who can to cast their vote today and make their voice heard in the Capital.

Sue Bruce is chief executive of Edinburgh City Council