What are the challenges of a December election?

Britain could be heading for its first December general election in almost a century if MPs back Boris Johnson’s plan for a pre-Christmas poll.

The Prime Minister has promised to give MPs more time to consider his Brexit deal if they agree to an election on December 12.

But what are the logistical challenges of a winter poll, and how could the timing affect the result?

– Weather

Cold and wet December days could deter voters from venturing out to polling stations across the country, while snow could make it impossible for some to cast their ballots.

Swathes of the country will also only have around eight hours of light between sunrise and sunset, which is likely to mean more people are inclined to stay indoors.

Political parties often run volunteer operations to help the elderly and disabled get to polling stations, but demand for such assistance could exceed supply in a winter election.

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Poor weather in December could put people off venturing out to vote (Yui Mok/PA)

– No room at the polling station

Councils often book polling stations and count venues months or even years in advance of an election, but many places could already be hired out for Christmas events this December.

Nativity plays, Christmas bazaars and pantomimes will be booked in for many village halls, sports centres and theatres, and finding free venues – particularly in small communities – is likely to be very tricky.

Laura Lock, deputy chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have issues getting polling stations generally.

“There’s less and less public buildings available for people to use, but one of the key challenges that we have in December is that the polling stations already have bookings.

“For May polls, they’re expecting us on the first Thursday in May. Here, we’re not even convinced all of the time that the election will take place on a Thursday. So, this morning I’m sure that our 2,000 members will be getting on the phones trying to book polling stations provisionally for December 12.”

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School halls could already be booked up for nativity plays and Christmas bazaars in December (Jane Barlow/PA)

– University holidays

Many students would return home for the Christmas break from university towns where they are likely to be registered to vote before December 12.

Students can register at two addresses – and can change their address to ensure they are registered in the right place for polling day – but they could miss out if they do not.

Labour will hope to secure the student vote, and so this could predominantly affect them.

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(PA Graphics)

– Electoral register

Officials are likely to be forced to use two different electoral registers to manage voting in a December poll as it is updated annually on December 1 – after polling cards will have been sent out.

This could bring confusion as polling card numbers may not match the new list.

– Christmas parties

December is a busy month for all – with social gatherings and office Christmas parties filling diaries.

There are concerns voters’ social lives could affect turnout – with people potentially prioritising festive fun over casting their ballots.

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