Volunteer observers at the UK election.

What I was doing in London in the days before the UK General Election.
Delighted to join the briefing for some of the SDAI international & British election observers, volunteer professional independent observers for the UK General Election. This Canadian based NGO, Sustainable Development Assistance International, has US, Canadian and British directors. SDAI is made up of experienced international election observers. Impromptu venue the Sussex Arms, near Paddington, looked after us well. Even if the back room looked like the rather glitzy nightclub type function rooms of Ukrainian bars or model tv playing breakfast rooms often used for briefings in other countries where we work.
Informative presentations on the election by Dr Frands Pedersen of the University of Westminster (we were delighted three of his year 3 students joined us for the briefing); Alfred Dubs, Lord Dubs, an honour & pleasure to meet the inspirational campaigner Alf Dubs who gave up an hour of his very busy schedule campaigning and clearly enjoyed communicating and informing. Plus Paul Wesson, Anthony Robinson, Chris Cuninghame, Megan McKenzie, Paul Simon & our coordinator, Karen Reinhardt. Along with excellent clear handbooks, codes and guidance by the UK Electoral Commission. As I agreed with my friend Paul Salter it was worth coming to London just to hear Lord Dubs, but also to see professional friends & new colleagues. A principled campaigner in support of refugees, like Liverpool’s own Eleanor Rathbone was in the 1930s and 1940s, Dubs is a very engaging, fair, speaker and pleasure to listen to. A real twinkle in his eye despite all the serious matters to deal with.

SDAI: https://www.sdai-aidd.ca/ (SDAI-AIDD in English & French Canadian)
A year ago, when I wrote about this subject on my website and in fairly critical comments, there were 250 observers registered with the Electoral Commission, including from Government departments, some dozens of international ones (including a Ukrainian NGO I hadn’t then heard of but did since), individuals, academics, Stowe school reps, and the largest UK group, Democracy Volunteers. Now there are over 1100 on the Commission’s register of accredited observers. So more of a chance, albeit a slight one, that election staff, party workers and volunteers, and members of the public might see people engaged in election observation. Of course with professional international missions a focus is on long term observation, not only polling day, but it is still good to have people taking the trouble to look out for democratic standards.
Postscript, after the election. 31 December. Catching up having returned from observing the election in Uzbekistan. A few days earlier, on our UK E-Day I accompanied a US observer from Canadian based civil society organisation, SDAI-AIDD to observe at polling stations in Liverpool & Sefton & the Liverpool counts. While I’m critical of the UK electoral system I’m happy to say that all the polling station staff at 15 polling stations Sam Burgess, of California, & I visited were friendly, cooperative and professional. And the counts were well run. Electoral services at Sefton Council (Sefton MBC) & Liverpool City Council did a great job.

A few snippets for international election observers at the UK election.

Next week a few international independent election observers, and a small number of British ones, will observe the UK General Election. I shared a few points that I thought might be of interest for – lighthearted or serious – background with the team from SDAI, Sustainable Development Assistance International – Aidde International Developpment Durable.
“SDAI-AIDD is a small, independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), based in eastern Canada.” https://www.sdai-aidd.ca/

I post some of the points here for easy reading.
At the end I add links explaining the role of tellers – party supporters who sit outside polling stations and ask voters if they have voted. These are not common in other countries I have visited for elections. Those countries also have a 24 hour campaign silence period before E-Day to allow voters peaceful reflection, which we do not have in the UK.

1). Matt election cartoons in the Daily Telegraph.

2). An example of election local news coverage from one constituency – Wrexham.

3). Last minute Voter registration rush.

4). Facebook ads, the BBC and the digital campaign.

5). The role of tellers at polling stations.

Hello everyone,

I look forward to seeing some of you next week and also meeting a few of the team for the first time.

1). I thought you might like the Matt cartoon that I saw on the front page of my Mum’s Daily Telegraph. It’s a very biased Conservative paper (not a tabloid though with as much gossip and scandal, as well as ‘Society’ and business news) but the cartoons are very good

You will probably need to register for a free account to view the links.

2). In addition, while looking at another news story entirely I happened upon an advert for the election coverage by one local news site. I just thought it was a good example of localised election candidate and constituency information, in a public service type way.

This is just for two constituencies around one town, Wrexham, in North West Wales, so gives you a little local picture.

3). As you may know, the UK does not have automatic and continuous election registration. Before each election there is a rush to encourage people to register to vote. Many who want to vote miss the deadline – which is earlier than in the Eastern European countries that I’ve visited on EOMs.
This year more people registered on the last day than ever before. There was much coverage of this on Twitter. E.g. this tweet from the Electoral Reform Society highlights how 1 million more people registered during the election period this time than last time:

2.8m applications to #RegisterToVote since the election was called.

On November 25 they wrote:
There were an estimated 9m missing from the electoral roll as of December 2018 – so there’s still a long way to go to close the gap.

Tuesday is the last day to register before the election – deadline MIDNIGHT. Keep spreading the word #RegisterToVote

4). I’m also attaching a scan from the New European newspaper, from the end of August, which is the only article that I’ve seen before the election analysising the political parties’ spend on social media. This election the BBC is doing a lot of work analysing the digital campaign, more than before. See: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2019/election

and some more information below.

I’ll also pop these links in the OSCE election observers Facebook group that many of us belong to.

Best wishes,

Kiron, Liverpool.

PS you can set many of the Matt cartoons here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/matt/

Unsurprisingly many of the recent ones are political and I don’t think you need to be British to get the jokes. The picture on yesterday’s front page of Donald and Melania outside 10 Downing Street seemed like a joke Christmas card but that one was real.


Online election ads – who is targeting whom?

By Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

11 November 2019



Huw Edwards to lead BBC’s Election 2019 coverage
Date: 04.11.2019 Last updated: 08.11.2019 at 14.41

Making sense of the election


The BBC will have its first Digital Election Reporter, Joe Tidy, who will work alongside the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan, focusing on the all-important digital campaigns being run by the parties and the vital role social media will play in the election.

5). Tellers.
As I wrote “You need some explanation of what happens at polling stations – specifically the presence of party tellers, which observers might meet”. The voting, verification and counting procedures in the UK are all pretty simple but different to other countries in North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union where the OSCE observe and international observers with the OSCE (the organisation I work with from time to time) are often not familiar with party representatives being present outside polling stations.

C. The role of tellers.

I attach the guidance poster from the Electoral Commission, 2017 version.

Tellers’ dos and don’ts (PDF)
This document contains a summary of what tellers can and must not do and should be read in conjunction with any guidance issued locally by the Returning Officer


That is one page. I don’t think anyone needs to read the four page detailed guidance for tellers. Which is this one:

Political-ads-social-media-UK-TNE-29-Aug-2019.pdf (3431 downloads )


Tellers-dos-and-donts-generic-EC-2017-1.pdf (3450 downloads )

My article on the Ukraine elections, and new President, Zelenskyi.

My article on the Ukraine elections and new President was published here in the newsletter of Liberal International (British Group). At pages 13 – 15. With thanks to the editor, Stewart Rayment, and for editing the text to Mark Smulian of Liberator magazine, which is due to publish the article as well next month.
InterLib September 2019: https://libg.co.uk/en/document/interlib-september-2019#document

It is a .pdf file, which you can download, my article is at pages 13 – 15.

I have also put the unedited text of the Liberator magazine article, below.

In the space I didn’t have time to cover in any detail what the election observation involves, or what was and wasn’t done during the election that either broke election law or in inventive and imaginative ways got round the spirit of the election laws. I give some account of why I am sympathetic to former President Petro Poroshenko – I could give rather more reasons and concrete examples – but at the same time I didn’t have enough space to outline my criticisms of him, and more reasons why I am cautiously optimistic about President Zelenskyi. Nor was I able to talk about what living in Ukraine is actually like and the many normal and unusual things (for someone from Britain), huge number of extreme contrasts and paradoxes. I’m always happy to talk about these topics from my own experience to anyone interested.

For those who want some detail about the mechanics and outcome of the election I recommend this blog by my friend and Long Term Observer election colleague, Alex Folkes:
Ukraine’s President gets what he wants out of Parliamentary polls but wants more

July 27 ‘Ukraine’s president gets what he wants out of parliamentary polls but wants more’.

I have also put the unedited text of the Liberator magazine draft article, here:

Ukraine’s Comedian is no comic. Great hope & some chance on democracy’s eastern border.


Article for Liberator magazine (UK Liberal political magazine), published edited in the newsletter of Liberal International British Group. This is a Word .doc document.

My latest short visit to Ukraine & election observation work.

What I was doing last week.
My 11th election observation mission for OSCE / ODIHR on behalf of the UK FCO observing elections in the Balkans & former Soviet Union. Deployed by David Kidger of SOLACE Enterprises as Short Term Observer (STO), and SOLACE / Godfrey Cromwell of BEWC as Long Term Observer (LTO), since February 2007. This time deployed as a Short Term Observer to Lviv. I observed the Parliamentary election with my partner and our local staff in the Peremyshlyani district, south of Lviv.

My 8th visit to Ukraine since 2014, as election observer & / or University volunteer, and occasional tourist, working in my 5th region of the 7 I’ve visited (& many regional level cities, numerous towns and villages).

The OSCE election observation mission final report will be published in a couple of months but it is reasonable to say, from the Preliminary Statement, that people in Ukraine were freely able to vote for who they wanted to, in an election which was largely very professionally run by the many people administering it.

More information on the mission to observe the Parliamentary elections in Ukraine can be found here: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/ukraine/422585

OSCE /ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the Early Parliamentary Elections, 21 July 2019.