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The Electoral Commission - Elections watchdog calls for action to ensure voter confidence

The Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog, has published its statutory report on the UK Parliamentary and English local elections on 6 May 2010. Although the Commission found that the elections were well run in the vast majority of constituencies, it recommends immediate action to ensure voter confidence for future elections.

The Electoral Commission’s public opinion research found that while two thirds of voters were confident that the elections were well run, three in ten were not very or not at all confident. In 2009, only four per cent of voters said that they were not confident that the elections that year were well run.

The report outlines an agenda for the UK Government that needs to be implemented over the next five years, aimed at ensuring future confidence in the electoral process. It includes calling on the UK Government to:

  • Bring forward a comprehensive electoral modernisation strategy for future elections. This should include lengthening the timetable for general elections and improving voting opportunities for service personnel and overseas voters. The modernisation strategy should also address what role, if any, advance voting might play and also if there is a case for requiring proof of ID at polling stations in Great Britain.
  • Bring forward a comprehensive plan to ensure the effective management and delivery of future elections This should include ensuring greater co-ordination for the delivery of elections and introducing mechanisms to hold Returning Officers to account for the delivery of their statutory functions.
  • Implement individual electoral registration in Great Britain in a way that maximises the completeness and accuracy of the electoral register.

The report also reiterates the Commission’s urgent call for the Government to change the law as soon as possible to make sure voters who are queuing at polling stations at 10pm are able to vote at all future elections.

Jenny Watson, Chair of The Electoral Commission, said:

“We are lucky to have inherited a trust based system from previous generations. But this cannot endure for ever. The basic building blocks of electoral administration need long-term support and reform in order to ensure that voters can be sure that their vote counts. Voter confidence is fragile and may take time to re-build after high profile problems like the ones experienced at some polling stations at 10pm.

“In the vast majority of constituencies elections were well run – but this is despite the system, not because of it. We have outlined in this report the steps that Government and Parliament need to take to ensure the way elections and electoral registration are run is fit for the 21st century.

“Some changes can be made quickly, others will take more time. We will continue to say where we think more needs to be done and report back on progress after next year’s elections and proposed referendums.”

A copy of the report can be found here.

For further information contact:
Press office on 020 7271 0704
Outside office hours: 07789 920414

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. The responsibility for running elections and overseeing the count lies with Returning Officers and the Electoral Commission reports afterwards on the administration of General Elections in the UK. 
  2. The Commission has powers to set and monitor performance standards for Returning Officers in Great Britain. These are published on our website at www.electoralcommission.org.uk/performance-standards.


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