Electoral Commission recommends electoral law shake-up

by Stephen Tall on August 27, 2008

The Times, BBC and Telegraph all have reports and you can read the full report for the UK here; and for Scotland here.

The six main recommendations of the Electoral Commission are as follows:

1. establish Electoral Management Boards in Great Britain, including all Returning Officers and Electoral Registration Officers for each area
2. provide the chairs of Electoral Management Boards in Great Britain with statutory powers to direct Returning Officers and Electoral Registration Officers
3. develop the Electoral Commission’s role in driving and monitoring performance improvements for electoral administration in Scotland
4. consolidate and simplify the legal framework for electoral administration in the UK
5. take steps to address structural causes of funding shortfalls for electoral administration in Great Britain
6. consider the potential for and implications of a coordinated electoral registration service across the UK

I won’t pretend to have absorbed the full implications of these – so don’t know if they’re to be generally applauded, or not – but I was struck by one sentence in the report which seemed a welcome piece of common-sense:

We do not believe, however, that there is currently a compelling case for removing responsibilities for the administration of elections and electoral registration from local authority control and re-configuring them under a single officer or body in Great Britain.

All too often the temptation of such reports is to recommend disparate local bodies be replaced by a new, larger, remote, more expensive government agency with vast IT and infrastructure needs which lead to massive cost over-runs. At least the Electoral Commission has resisted the pressure for that, on this occasion.