In the UK, all parliamentary general elections, European parliamentary elections, council elections and by-elections are organised by local councils. Elections officers and managers are responsible for ensuring that the whole process, from registering electors (voters) to counting the votes cast, is carried out within strict legal guidelines and is fair and runs smoothly.
Although elections officers/managers are based within local authorities, for the sake of fairness during elections they are, in effect, part of a wider Electoral Service, answerable only to the courts. Consequently, this may involve other stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Justice and the Electoral Commission.
An elections officer:
Elections managers work closely with the council's legal services team as well as councillors, MP's, council members and central government departments.
Elections officers and managers usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Many councils offer flexible working arrangements and part-time work or job share may be available. Additional hours may be required during election periods, for which time off in lieu or an attendance allowance may be given.
Elections officers and managers are office-based in town halls, civic centres or council offices in towns and cities. They may travel to attend meetings as part of their work.
Salaries for elections officers usually range from £16,000 to £22,000 a year. A newly appointed elections manager may start on around £28,000 a year and experienced electoral service managers may earn in excess of £40,000 a year.
There are 433 local councils in the UK employing elections officers and managers. Larger local authorities have dedicated elections teams. In smaller local authorities, the elections section may be teamed with the committee, land charges and licensing departments.
Vacancies may be advertised in the local press, and in the jobs bulletins and websites of individual local authorities. They may also appear on the public sector printed and online recruitment magazine Opportunities, at www.lgjobs.com, the local government recruitment website, and at www.aea-elections.co.uk, the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) website.
There are no minimum educational requirements to become an elections officer. However, councils may ask for GCSE's (A*-C) including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.
The Diploma in public services may be relevant to this area of work. Studying humanities at GCSE, a Level 3 BTEC National Award in central and local government or a Level 5 BTEC Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/HND) in public services may also be useful.
Most entrants to officer positions have experience of working in local government in an administrative or clerical role, either within an elections team or related department. Increasingly, councils expect candidates to have the AEA Foundation Course in Electoral Administration and then the Certificate in Electoral Administration, or to be prepared to work towards it.
Elections managers need extensive elections and management experience, potentially including the:
Consequently, most elections managers are promoted from elections officer posts. The majority already hold the AEA Certificate in Electoral Administration, and may be working towards the AEA Diploma in Electoral Administration.
Elections officers and managers are restricted in the political activities that they may be able to undertake. This covers membership of local authorities, Parliament and the European Parliament and their involvement in political activities, such as canvassing.
Initial training is given on the job. Short internal or external courses, covering topics like changes in electoral law or ICT packages, are arranged as needed.
Councils encourage elections staff to work through three levels of qualifications offered by AEA:
The Foundation Course in Electoral Administration is aimed at new entrants without relevant qualifications, helping prepare candidates for the Certificate in Electoral Administration. Delivered in five modules over one year, the course covers electoral registration and elections administration.
The Certificate in Electoral Administration recognises candidates' knowledge and understanding of electoral registration and elections administration. Candidates must research relevant subject areas and submit four work-based assignments and attend an assessment day, during which they sit two examination papers.
The Diploma in Electoral Administration covers electoral law, systems and finance, and management principles and practice. Candidates must produce a dissertation, pass an oral examination and complete two written examination papers relating to the syllabus and management issues.
The AEA also offers a range of other training and development opportunities including branch meetings and workshops, lasting between one and four days. Some are residential courses. These cover topical issues, such as electoral registration or regional European electoral training. AEA also holds an annual conference, usually in February, and a one-day national seminar.
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An elections officer needs:
In addition an elections manager needs:
An elections officer with considerable experience and AEA qualifications may be promoted to elections manager, although it may be necessary to move to a different location to find a vacancy.
It may be possible for both elections officers and managers to transfer to posts in other council departments, particularly in related areas such as policy or democratic services. Some move into administrative or management roles in other employment sectors.
With further training in law, elections managers may be able to transfer to local council legal services departments.
Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA)
Tel: 0151 281 8246
The Electoral Commission. Trevelyan House,
Great Peter Street, London SW1P 2HW
Tel: 020 7271 0500
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.