SHAFAQNA – Scotland’s 32 local authorities are in the final stages of a huge logistical exercise to ensure the smooth running of Thursday’s independence referendum.
Across the country, ballot boxes and other paraphernalia are being moved in to the schools and community buildings that will become polling places.
A total of 4,285,323 people have registered to vote.
With turnout expected to top 80%, Thursday looks like being the busiest day in Scottish electoral history.
There are an estimated 4,410,288 people over the age of 16 resident in Scotland, according to 2012 figuresfrom the Scottish government.
This suggests that 97% of the total number of people eligible to vote have registered.
Across the country, local councils will be responsible for the operation of some 2,608 polling places with a total of 5,579 polling stations from 07:00 until 22:00.
The polling places are the schools and halls that voters attend to cast their votes. The stations are the designated rooms within the polling places which handle voters based on where they live.
In most areas, a maximum of 800 voters have been allocated to each polling station and many will allocate additional staff to assist during busy times.
In Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, the council is providing 483 ballot boxes across 483 polling stations in 200 polling places.
The council said that 97.2% of Glasgow’s eligible population was registered to vote in the referendum – the highest ever level of registration in the city.
To cope with the large number of voters expected, the council will have 1,188 people working at its polling stations, including 185 5th and 6th year pupils.
When polling places close at 22:00 on Thursday, 113 vans will be used to transport the ballot boxes to the Emirates Arena near Celtic Park, where about 700 people will work on the count.
Similar arrangements are in place across all 32 council areas, although variations in approach will be taken to account for population size and geography.
Local authorities such as Orkney Islands Council do not have polling stations on their many isles.
Instead, voters will have to travel to the Mainland of Orkney to vote, if they have not already cast a postal vote.
Nationally, a total of 789,024 people applied for a postal vote, which is the largest volume of registration for postal votes ever in Scotland.
When the polls close, those postal votes returned will be the first to be counted.
Across each local authority area, the process of verifying each postal votes has begun.
When postal votes are completed, the vote is cast but the voter must also provide their date of birth and a signature.
That signature is then compared to the one which the voter provided when they applied for the postal vote.
For the first time, this stage of verification will be carried out by a machine which uses specially configured scanners and software designed to make sure it is a valid vote.
If the vote is validated it will then be counted by hand.
Chief counting officer for the referendum, Mary Pitcaithly, said any problem which a machine identified with a signature would be subject to human review.
“The computer can accept the signatures if they are close and if there’s any doubt at all they will throw it out,” she said.