MANNING a polling station for 15 hours at a time is not for everyone, but Tim Keohane has done the job at practically every election held during the past 30 years.

And the senior trading standards officer at Caerphilly County Borough Council will once again perform this marathon duty, as a presiding officer at a polling station in the Caerphilly constituency during the General Election on Thursday.

Mr Keohane's first experience as a polling clerk was in the late 1980s while working at Gwent County Council, where he started his council career in 1981.

Polling stations are most commonly set up in community centres and schools, and Mr Keohane has seen his fair share of those - but venues can be a little more unusual.

“I was a polling clerk in a garage in a residential home where they stored a lot of things,” he said.

On Thursday. Mr Keohane will be among a small army of presiding officers and poll clerks, who will rise early to prepare their polling stations for voters.

His day will start at around 6.30am, he likes to arrive a little earlier if possible.

“You never know what might happen, it is always better to get there a little early,” he said.

Once everything has been set up, he will be responsible for opening the doors to the public at 7am, along with his polling clerk.

From then until 10pm it is his job to sit and wait for people to arrive so he can direct them on where and how to vote, and provide support when necessary.

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Fifteen hours after opening the doors, it will be time to close them - and some polling clerks and presiding officers attend the counting of the votes afterwards.

Despite 30 years’ experience in the role, Mr Keohane has to attend a training session along with the other presiding officers and poll clerks.

“It’s only in the last 15 to 20 years that training has come into it. When I first started, we learned on the job," he said.

“It may be our responsibility to see everything through on the day but it’s all explained thoroughly in the training and we are given a comprehensive manual.

“There’s a lot more organisation these days.”


All presiding officers and polling clerks who do not work at their own polling stations have to apply for a postal vote or a proxy, where someone votes on their behalf.

“There’s no time on the day to go off to your own polling station to vote. You have to remain at the polling station the whole time,” said Mr Keohane.

In a General Election polling stations tend to have a steady flow.

“There are the really busy times, after work especially, but also before work,” he said.

“In a General Election it can be constant. I have worked at a polling station during a smaller election and not seen anybody for two hours.”

Presiding officers must be prepared for all eventualities and be ready to help anyone who needs it.

“We get a lot of questions and every so often there can be some difficult moments, but you’re trained to deal with it all," said Mr Keohane.

“There’s a lot of paperwork to fill out with the job and it’s really important we get it right.

“For example, there’s specific paperwork you have to fill out if you have to mark a ballot paper for a blind person, or if someone else marks a ballot paper on behalf of a blind person.”

Mr Keohane will not be attending the counting of the votes this year, but his work does not end when the polls close at 10pm.

The majority of the aforementioned paperwork is done after the polling station shuts at 10pm.

At this stage the presiding officer makes sure that all ballot papers are accounted for and the ballot box is sealed.

Only once the polling station has been shut, the boxes have been sent off, and the paperwork completed, is the presiding officers' and polling clerks' work finished.