May elections were well-run, despite challenging circumstances

14 Sep 2021 10:59 AM

Concerns about Covid-19 did not stop voters from taking part in elections earlier this year, according to reports published yesterday. Research and analysis from the Electoral Commission shows that there was no decline in turnout across Great Britain, compared to previous years, despite the pandemic. 

May’s elections in England, Scotland and Wales were one of the most complex sets of polls held in recent times, with the additional challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The evidence shows that changes put in place by the UK’s governments, the Commission and electoral administrators helped to support and reassure voters and campaigners. People were confident that they could vote safely at the elections, and the overwhelming majority were able to vote using their preferred method.

Overall, candidates and campaigners were able to successfully put their case to voters face-to-face, online and through printed material, even though some restrictions remained in place during the campaign. 

Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance, Electoral Commission, said:

“This year’s elections in England, Scotland and Wales took place in unique and challenging circumstances. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the electoral community across Great Britain, the polls were delivered safely and successfully.” 

While voter confidence in elections remains high, the experience of these polls has highlighted continued concerns about the resilience and capacity of local electoral services teams across Great Britain.

Those running elections faced considerable challenges securing polling station venues, and finding and training staff to work on polling day. Changes to legislation during the months leading up to the polls, while unprecedented and unavoidable in the circumstances, created additional risks and added to the existing challenge of delivering elections within an outdated and increasingly complex legal framework

Ailsa Irvine added:

“Our reports once again highlight evidence that our electoral system is operating under strain, and this continues to pose significant challenges for the delivery of well-run elections. Further legislative changes are expected in the coming years, and these will necessarily increase the expectations and workload on already stretched teams of electoral administrators. 

“It is vital that these services are properly supported and resourced, so that voters can continue to receive the help they need to register and vote. For our part, we will work in partnership with the electoral community, including the Government and local authorities, to develop and deliver proposals to build more resilient electoral services for the future.”

You can find additional information and further press releases on the reports on our media centre. 

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or

Notes to editors

The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:

  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focussing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency.

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK, Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to report on the administration of the following polls held in May 2021: the elections to the Scottish Parliament, the elections to the Senedd, and elections for Police and Crime Commissioners.

We have published the following reports: