Outgoing Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission Peter Wardle reflects on the delivery of this year’s general election and considers what further improvements can be made.
This blog coincides with the launch of the Electoral Commission’s report on the administration of the May 7 elections.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about the General Election under the headline ‘Expect the unexpected’. It wasn’t really the outcome I was talking about – but if readers want to credit me with clairvoyance on that front, that’s fine!
This was my third General Election as Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission – and after each one, we reflect on what happened, and what further improvements can be made.
We ask voters how it was for them – and we can take a good deal of satisfaction and pride in the fact that trust and confidence in our electoral system is so high. This year, nine in ten people told us they thought the elections in May were well-run. This is a real tribute to the team effort that is put in by Returning Officers and their staff, local police forces, and of course campaigners, to make sure the elections run as smoothly as possible for voters.
But the election world never stands still – there are major polls across the UK in May 2016, and a UK-wide referendum due before the end of 2017. In our report on the administration of the 7 May elections, we’ve made a number of recommendations that would further improve voters’ experience and sustain trust in our democracy.
Chief Executive of The Electoral Commission Peter Wardle reflects on the practicalities of running a national election, and how this general election differs from 2010.
The huge task of delivering the range of different polls taking place on 7 May – parts of England will see the highest level of combination of polls since 1979 – is well under way and some key milestones have been passed with the publication of the notices of election at the end of March and the close of nominations on 9 April. Returning Officers and electoral administrators came into this year’s election cycle with a solid foundation. Nearly nine in ten voters we talked to said the elections in May last year were well run. This shows that the hard work of elections teams across the country is continuing to inspire public confidence. It’s a great start, but it doesn’t mean any of us is tempted to be complacent.
What can we expect from next month’s elections? UK general elections bring their own unique challenges – and this one is already different from May 2010.
The level of interest is, of course, likely to be greater than at any other UK-wide elections since 2010, so we’re expecting a higher turnout. The Scottish Independence Referendum showed all the challenges that come with high turnout – but also how those challenges can be successfully managed. For example, higher turnout means more voters at polling stations. After the experience of 2010, where long queues at 10pm resulted is some voters being turned away, we worked with the UK Government and Parliament to ensure that the law was changed. This May, voters can be issued with a ballot paper if they are in a queue at their polling station at close of poll.