Electoral Commission
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Electoral Commission highlights concerns about risks of combined polls in 2020

The Electoral Commission has yesterday (5 September 2016) published its report on the administration of the 2016 Mayor of London and London Assembly elections.

The Commission makes a number of recommendations for improving the count in London for the next Mayoral election and, looking forward, the Commission has highlighted that it is concerned about the combination of different polls which are currently scheduled to take place in May 2020.

Andrew Scallan CBE, Director of Electoral Administration at the Electoral Commission said:

“Overall the 2016 London elections were well-run, however, serious problems in Barnet, where incomplete registers of electors were provided to polling stations, and issues at the London results collation centre, greatly overshadowed the good work undertaken in planning and delivering the poll.

"The complexities of the combined polls that are currently scheduled for 2020, including the next Mayor and Assembly elections in London, and an unprecedented number of elections elsewhere, present significant challenges for voters, candidates and electoral administrators. The UK Government should consider the risks associated with holding these polls on the same day.”

Key points from the report

The next Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly elections are due to take place in 2020, on the same day as the next scheduled UK Parliamentary general election. This means that voters will be faced with four different ballot papers and three voting systems. In addition the two different elections will cover different voting areas.

Elsewhere in England, there are scheduled PCC elections and local government elections,which include local council elections, directly elected local authority mayoral elections and combined authority mayoral elections. In Wales, there are PCC elections scheduled.

The Commission is recommending that the UK Government should immediately begin the necessary analysis and consultation on the risks of holding these polls on the same day, including giving consideration to the potential for changing the date of elections.

Any decision to change the date of the elections must be informed by appropriate consultation between the Electoral Commission, relevant Government departments, elected bodies, political parties, administrators and voters themselves to ensure that the interests of voters are put first.

The report also considers in detail some of the issues that occurred during the 2016 elections in London and makes recommendations to the Greater London Returning Officer for how these can be avoided at future polls.

This includes ensuring that the management of the count process is improved for future polls and that the use of e-counting machines is again reviewed by summer 2017 to assess for its effectiveness, value for money and risks. This is particularly important considering the complexities surrounding the next scheduled set of elections in 2020.

Andrew Scallan CBE continued:

“We have made a number of recommendations for future polls in London to help improve the experience of everyone involved, and we would expect  to see these implemented in time for the next elections.”

Key recommendations

  • The complexity of the combined polls that are currently scheduled for 2020 should be considered carefully by the UK Government, including whether the polls should be moved to different dates.
  • The Greater London Authority should give further consideration to the effectiveness, value for money and risks of using e-counting systems, particularly with regard to the complexities associated with the combination of polls due to take place in 2020. A full review should be published and made available for comment by summer 2017.
  • The role of the Borough Returning Officer should be set out in legislation, in the same manner that the roles of Constituency Returning Officers and the Greater London Returning Officer currently are. The UK Government should amend the rules to reflect this.
  • When planning for the management of the count, the Greater London Area Returning Officer should ensure that there is effective communication plans in place to ensure that attendees at the count are kept informed of the progress of the count.
  • The Greater London Returning Officer should ensure that there is improved access to count areas and the count hub for accredited observers and Electoral Commission representatives.
  • The Greater London Returning Officer should ensure that an official with recent experience of elections is present to support the team throughout the process.
  • The Commission also recommends that the UK Government should develop an online system that would allow voters to check whether they are already registered before they submit a new application.

Headline figures from the report

Voters reported high levels of confidence with the voting process and were satisfied with the process for registering to vote.

  • A total of 5.74 million people were registered to vote in the Greater London Authority elections on 5 May 2016.
  • Overall turnout at the elections including votes rejected at the count, was 46.1% This was an increase of 7.3 percentage points from the 2012 elections, when turnout was 38.8%.
  • 2.60 million valid votes were cast at the elections.
  • 858,634 voters, or 15.0% of the electorate, were issued with a postal vote for these elections. This is 0.9 percentage points higher than the 14.1% of the electorate issued with postal ballot papers in 2012.
  • Turnout amongst postal voters was 68.4%.

The full report is available on the Commission’s website here:


For further information contact Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 orpress@electoralcommission.org.uk Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulations of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. On Thursday 5 May 2016 elections were held in London to elect the Mayor of London, 14 Constituency members and 11 London-wide Members of the London Assembly.
  3. On the same day there were also elections elsewhere in the UK. These were: Scottish Parliament; Northern Ireland Assembly; National Assembly for Wales; Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales (not Greater Manchester or London); City mayoral elections in Salford, Bristol and Liverpool; Local Government elections in parts of England
  4. This report looks specifically at the administration of the Greater London Authority elections, which included the contests for the Mayor of London and London Assembly. For more information on the elections themselves please see our media handbook here
  5. The overall administration of the election was the responsibility of the Greater London Returning Officer (GLRO). The GLRO for the 2016 elections was the Head of Paid Service of the Greater London Authority (GLA). For the purpose of the conduct of the election the GLRO is independent of the GLA itself, and is accountable directly to the courts within the legislative framework
  6. The Commission will be publishing further reports on the conduct of each of the elections that took place across the UK on Thursday 5 May 2016. For information relating to other election reports please contact the Electoral Commission press office.
  7. In 2020, the following elections are currently scheduled to take place: UK Parliamentary general election; Police and Crime Commissioner Elections in England and Wales; Greater London Authority and London Mayoral elections; Combined Authority Mayoral elections in parts of England; Local Government elections in parts of England; Directly Elected Mayors in parts of England; In addition, there may also be neighbourhood planning and council tax referendums in some areas in England.


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