Notes from 29 April 2008 post-briefing briefing

Becky's talk

Why you are here?

Election observation aims to support and protect free and fair elections, by enhancing the transparency and accountability of the elections process. Your role on 2 May is an important one. It’s also fairly easy for each one of you to fulfil it. All you have to do is write down what you see.

Our strength as an observation mission will come from us acting as a team. Taken together, your individual observations will form a larger picture of how well the London elections were conducted. But it’s important to remember that the findings from an election observation mission have no legal weight. Their power is dependent on their accuracy, impartiality and the respect for elections that each election monitor has shown during the mission.


To be able to view sensitive election procedures observers must have impeccable conduct which upholds their politically neutral status. In order to become observers, you have each agreed to abide by the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct. Not abiding by this code of conduct on 1 or 2 May will have serious consequences for the entire mission, not to mention ORG.

  • Respect Sovereignty and human rights
  • Respect the laws of the United Kingdom and the authority of electoral bodies: Observers must respect UK laws and must respect the authority of returning officers, counting officers and the Commission. You have a right to observe voting in polling stations and the vote count – be polite but firm in asserting these rights, however, if you are refused entry or information do not ignore the refusal – note it down and move on.
  • Protect the secrecy of the ballot: Do not try and ascertain the unique identifying mark on the back of the ballot paper. Do not communicate any information obtained at the counting of the vote as to who a particular ballot was cast for. Do not interfere with a voter while he or she is voting, or attempt to ascertain in any way for whom he or she cast their ballot. Observers must comply with all directions on the use of mobile phones, cameras and the like.
  • Maintain strict political impartiality at all times: Observers must not express or exhibit any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, political parties, candidates, referendum issues or in relation to any contentious issues in the election process. Do not wear any partisan symbols (eg rosettes). During adjudication of the ballots, do not take part in deciding for whom a doubtful ballot was cast.
  • Do not obstruct election processes: Under no circumstances should you handle official election documents or participate in the counting process. Do not touch any equipment used in the election such as servers or scanners. Mission best practice not to raise concerns with election officials – take detailed notes of what you have observed and in extreme situations, consult with your team leader. Most of the questions on your count centre evaluation form will not require you to speak with the CRO. If delays take place, CRO’s should address all observers present and let them know what’s going on.
  • Provide appropriate identification: Carry your observer badge with you at all times.
  • Maintain accuracy of observations and professionalism in drawing conclusions: At the observation you should take detailed and accurate notes of what you see. Do not take down what others have reported to you as your own observations – note them down as reported to you in the further notes section. Do not draw conclusions from what you see – just write down what you see.
  • Maintain proper personal behaviour: Be polite. Be patient. Although it is firmly established in the international context, independent observing is still fairly new in the UK – take time to explain to people why you are there and the value you are bringing to the elections process. The people you are observing are doing a very important job. Respect their need to get on with their job. If you feel you are being treated impolitely, do not respond in kind – if you think your treatment has been unfair or has obstructed your mission to observe the election – note it down.

The integrity and legitimacy of the entire observation mission relies on every one of us respecting this code of conduct and ensuring that fellow observers keep to the code. Please be aware of your fellow observers' conduct - if you feel they are diverging from it, either through panic or tiredness, do politely let them know. If that doesn't have the desired effect, speak to a team leader, or call me. If at any point you appear to diverge from this code, and I judge that you are presenting a threat to the integrity of the mission, and the hard work of your fellow observers, I will ask you to turn in your accreditation badge and leave the count centre. My decision will be final.


  • Observer Handbook and other required reading
  • Count Centre Evaluation Forms
  • Polling Place Evaluation Forms
  • Questions for Candidates and Agents at the Count Centre


The media may well approach you for comment. It’s important that you resist the temptation to tell them details about what you’ve observed about the electoral process. Our conclusions about the election will be based on what we all see, not what any one of us see. You should limit your comments to the media to general information about the observation mission and the role of observers, and pass all media enquiries to Michael (020 7096 1079) or me (07967 331184)

Working in Pairs

Please work in pairs on both polling day and count day. Pair-working provides greater accuracy in reporting observations. Please each fill out evaluations forms – there will be space to indicate with whom you were paired on the forms, and this will allow cross-referencing.

Polling Places

Who is observing on polling places?

The declaration of votes at City Hall

  • Susanne Lamido
  • Lucy Sheriff
  • Daryl Lloyd
  • Becky Hogge
  • James Cronin

When to submit your report

As soon as possible! The count centre evaluation forms should be filled out as you go along.

How should observers submit report?

For administrative and expediency purposes, preference is to hand them in (warts and all) on the day to team leaders. Also, the opportunity to write-up / tidy may be an opportunity to insert opinion or embellishment. However, some observers would prefer to have time to write-up / tidy their observations over a period of days.

We had a pretty long chat about the pros and cons, resulting in agreement that all reports would be submitted on the day, although observers will have the opportunity to see a copy of their report and submit further comments. Also, the report author (Becky) will be sure to ask observers to clarify if reports are obscured, due to either bad hand-writing or frenzy. In addition, observers should note they will get a chance to comment on our draft report and we will publish anonymised versions of the raw reports. Also, to aid clarity, please use capital letters and bullet points. We will ensure the stock forms include extra sheets for general note-taking.

  • Q: How mundane / prosaic should Observer reports be (e.g. 1330: man in yellow jumper with glasses turned to woman in red jumper and said 'hello, nice day for it.')?
    • A: Use the stock questions as guidance for the sorts of incidences we wish to report on.
  • Q: What if i don't have facilities to print out the stock questions / forms?
    • A: We will supply team leaders with multiple copies


  • Q: Should we have another Observer meet-up in the wake of the count?
    • A: Good idea, we'll work on that.
  • Q: How are we going to find each other on the day?
    • A: We'll circulate phone numbers to team leaders and their subs.
  • Q: What if someone wants to talk to a rep from ORG to give further testimony or for any other reason?
    • A: Ask them to phone Michael on 020 7096 1079
  • Q: Who's available for a late shift?
    • A: James Cox and Taylor