The final preparations are being put into place ahead of tomorrow’s landmark referendum on the UK and Gibraltar’s future within the European Union.
With just one day to go, Returning Officer Paul Martinez and his team are working hard to ensure a smooth operation on polling day.
The electorate will be casting their votes, deciding whether Gibraltar and the UK will leave or remain in the EU.
The referendum will run differently from the general election but follows the same format as the EU parliamentary elections.
“We form part of the South West region,” Mr Martinez said. “We are an hour ahead of the UK so we will not be able to start the verification and count process until 11pm our time, which is 10pm UK time when the polling stations close in the UK.”
“Polling stations will be open from 7am until 10pm at night.”
This means polling stations will be open longer than during a general election that open between 9am and 10pm. During the referendum and EU elections the same procedures are followed in Gibraltar than in the UK.
The ballot boxes will be sealed at 10pm and transferred to the University of Gibraltar.
“This time round we are using the University of Gibraltar because the John Mackintosh Hall was not available they are doing some works on the stage so we could not use it,” Mr Martinez said.
“The boxes will be kept there and at 11pm I will open the seals to the ballot boxes and then we start the verification process. Firstly we verify so for example, 20,000 votes were issued and we got 20,000 votes back or 23,000 votes were issued and maybe 22,500 are back as normal votes and 500 are spoilt.”
“We have to tally up.”
Voting has been made easy with the ballot paper offering two options, being whether the UK should remain a member of the EU or to leave the EU. Voters should only cross one box or risk their vote being spoiled.
Mr Martinez added that the process of counting the votes is much simpler than that of counting for a general election as there are only three possibilities.
The counting clerks will have three trays in front of them. One will be to remain, the other to leave and potentially spoilt votes that would have to be adjudicated by Mr Martinez on whether it counts for a vote or not.
Once the votes are totted up, Mr Martinez will call his regional counting officer Paul Morris in Bristol.
“I will tell him I am now ready to declare the Gibraltar vote,” Mr Martinez said. “We will connect electronically via a portal which is the whole of the UK, all the counting agents and officers, and all the counting authorities in the UK will be connected by that portal to their regional counting officers.”
“We send out data through and as soon as it is approved by the regional counting office I will then go on and proceed to declare the Gibraltar result.”
It has been a busy time for the Gibraltar Parliament who recently held the local general election last November. The Parliament team have been working hard to ensure democracy on the Rock, and hope to have around 24,000 people voting on referendum day.
“It has been a very, very busy time but I am blessed I have got a very good team with me and we have been able to weather the storm,” Mr Martinez said.
“It’s been very busy, I’m thankful that Parliament has not been in session because it would have been much more difficult to actually carry on the role with sessions of Parliament.”
“But we’re weathering the storm and we are very confident we will deliver on the day.”