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The journey of a ballot box from the Isle of Gigha to the election count drew curious glances from bemused tourists on Friday May 24.
Charles Reppke, Returning Officer for Argyll and Bute’s European election, became the centre of attention when he took to the sea to collect the island’s voting papers.
Charles, who has been a key figure in organising elections for more than 20 years, is looking forward to retiring from his post as Head of Governance and Law at Argyll and Bute Council.
In what is likely to be his last time organising a poll in the region, he was getting on with his duties, as ever.
He said: ‘I took the ferry to Gigha to collect the island’s votes. A group of tourists who were on the ferry slip came over to speak to me and were really interested in the process of making sure island votes are counted.
‘It probably helped, right enough, that BBC ALBA was there with a camera.
As one took a photograph for their Facebook page of me, the ballot box and Gigha looking lovely, it will be more good publicity for the area, which is great.’
This isn’t the first time Charles’ journey to Gigha has achieved positive attention. A photograph of him waiting for the ferry was used around the world, from America to South Africa, in coverage about the EU Referendum.
Charles, originally from Campbeltown, has seen a lot of change in the running of elections over the years: ‘Co-ordinating elections in Argyll and Bute is fairly complex,’ he explained. ‘We need more than 400 people and 125 polling stations to run them and a mix of road, sea and air transport to get votes to the count.
‘When counts are overnight, we use helicopters to bring votes in from islands. There are a limited number of pilots qualified to fly at night, so we’re grateful for the skills of those who work with us.
‘When I first got involved in elections, there were about 1,500 people in Argyll and Bute who used postal voting, now there are 12,000 to 14,000. The Electoral Commission in Scotland didn’t exist 20 years ago; now it provides advice and information for councils across Scotland, which helps a lot with changing regulations around, for example, proxy voting.
‘We have used a wide range of venues as polling stations from village halls, schools, or fire stations to caravans, golf clubs and an inn.
‘Running elections is a huge team effort and as Returning Officer, I have the pleasure of working with committed and efficient people across Argyll and Bute.’