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.

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I’m gald you’re so sangine, Stephen.

As soon as I read “establish Electoral Management Boards” I was reminded that the Government’s default position when struck by any perceived problem is to create a new QUANGO.

by Tom Papworth on August 27, 2008 at 4:46 pm. Reply #

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.

Err, I wouldn’t bet on it. Read the report.

by James Graham on August 27, 2008 at 5:30 pm. Reply #

Perhaps an obvious point, but keeping the administration of elections local reduces the ability of incumbant national governments to rig an election. Not too much of a problem at the moment, but one to avoid in the future.

by Andrew Turvey on August 27, 2008 at 10:55 pm. Reply #

Andrew is exactly right, which is why we should treat Alex Salmond’s latest power grab attempt with contempt.

by James Graham on August 27, 2008 at 11:07 pm. Reply #

It Sounds awful – the electoral commission has been a huge waste of money. This is because it cannot address any real issues and therefore spends time cretaing a new role for itself. the profusion of electoral systems needs to be replaced by STV. The decline in turnout and disengagement from politics won’t be altered by voting in super markets.

Massive donations from companies and individuals distort the democratic process – no amount of transparency makes it right. Massive distortions of coverage by newspapers and other media have more influence than even the biggest donors.

Returning officers and electoral registration officers are not experts on elections – they are not political activists, they do not run election campaigns, they do not know how political parties work and they are unsuited for this role. The problem with the scotish elections was surely the daft top-up PR system. It is hard enough to get voter registration done under the existing sytem, moving to individual registration will produce a massive drop off (in millions) in the number of people on the electoral register. Changing some of the arcane laws that stop people challenging dodgy nominations,registrations etc would be more helpful.

by Mouse on August 28, 2008 at 7:32 am. Reply #

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