Helping you understand Welsh law

Electoral Officials

There are many roles which contribute to the running of an election or the holding of a referendum.  These pages deal with the role of the electoral registration officer and the returning officer.

The electoral registration officer

The registration of electors is the permanent, on-going electoral function in the UK which is carried out by an official called the “electoral registration officer” (ERO).  The electoral registration officer maintains electoral registers and administers absent voting arrangements.  This is a year-round task and it is the ERO and their staff who are the permanent electoral employees of a local authority.  

The Representation of the People Act 1983 (the 1983 Act) lays the foundations for the management of electoral registration.  Section 8(2A) provides for the appointment in Wales of EROs by county and county borough councils.  It is often the chief executive of the council who is appointed as its ERO, but it does not have to be.  

Section 9 of the 1983 Act requires EROs to maintain electoral registers and sets out their core content.  

The Electoral Commission has a power to set performance standards for EROs under section 9A of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.  See Electoral Commission | Performance standards for Electoral Registration Officers.

For further information about registration, please click on the registration link on the right.  

The returning officer - appointment

The role of the returning officer (RO) is to ensure that the election is administered effectively and that, as a result, the experience of voters and those standing for election is a positive one.

ROs are responsible for:

  • publishing the notice of election 
  • administering the nomination process 
  • printing the ballot papers 
  • publishing the notice of poll, statement of persons nominated and notice of situation of polling stations 
  • the provision of polling stations
  • appointing presiding officers and poll clerks 
  • managing the postal voting process 
  • verifying and counting the votes 
  • declaring the result

Local government elections

For local government elections, section 35(1A) of the 1983 Act provides that in Wales, the council of every county or county borough council shall appoint an officer of the council to be the RO for elections of councillors of:

  • the county or county borough
  • communities within the county or county borough.  

The legislation does not stipulate who the RO must be.  In practice most authorities in Wales appoint their chief executives as the RO.

ROs can appoint one or more deputies to discharge any or all of their functions, see section 35(4) of the 1983 Act.

National Assembly for Wales elections

The National Assembly for Wales (Representation of the People) Order 2007 (the 2007 Order) provides at article 18(2) that the constituency returning officer (CRO) at elections to the National Assembly for Wales is the person who has been appointed as the RO for the local government elections in that area.  In the case of a constituency that includes more than one authority, Welsh Ministers designate the CRO.  

Article 18(3) of the 2007 Order also provides that a Regional Returning Officer (RRO) is appointed for each counting area within the electoral region. The RRO is the person who has been appointed at the RO for the local government elections in that area.  In the case of a constituency that includes more than one authority, Welsh Ministers designate the RRO.

The legislation does not stipulate who the CRO and RRO must be.  In practice, both the CRO and the RRO roles are often undertaken by the chief executive of a local authority.

ROs can appoint one or more deputies to discharge any or all of their functions, see article 20(1) of the 2007 Order.

The returning officer – performance

The Electoral Commission has a power to set performance standards for ROs under section 9A of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.  

The Electoral Commission also provides useful guidance and resources for ROs.  

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