I returned from my holiday to discover that all had not gone well in the general election. No I am not talking about hung Parliaments and coalitions, but about the process of the election itself. Cutting through the howls of outrage, it seems that in some places the polling stations could not handle a late surge of voters, and in others the need for enhanced verification of an inordinate number of postal votes meant that counting was a slower process than usual. Thankfully these issues were hardly endemic.
Now it may be that some mistakes were made, and we will know more when the Electoral Commission reports in a week’s time. In the meantime it is worth reflecting on the underlying problems of the system. All voting systems need to aim for a fraud free, 100% accurate, system. They need to be simple and accessible to encourage voter turnout and involvement, and they need to deliver a quick result. In truth the last point is more important to the candidates and the media than to the population at large but it is still a worthwhile goal.
I and other commentators have been arguing for the best part of two decades that these goals are not incompatible in themselves, but become increasingly so unless we reform the voting process. Possible changes to the system that could be thought about include:
Altering the days and times for people to vote. I have always thought that allowing voting over a whole weekend makes more sense than a time limited session on a Thursday.
The introduction of an electronic register, e-voting and who knows, e-counting?
The opportunity for people to vote at any polling station in their constituency, or maybe even further afield.
A radical rethink of postal voting and voter registration.
With a change to the system of voting being muted by the new coalition, this is a golden opportunity to overhaul the creaky process of voting as well. Let us hope that the new team at the Ministry of Justice, whose bailiwick this is, seize the moment.
Re. the negative issues, we need to keep the scale in perspective. There were about 50,000 polling station run by about 150,000 staff, and real problems occurred at probably less that 20 locations. 2. For the future, we also need to look closely at the IT available to support electoral registration and elections, and possibly at the boundaries of registration areas. Cross boundary constituencies, where the component registration authorities used different IT systems that did not talk satisfactorily to each other caused real frustration and a load of extra work for many EROs and ROs. Any review must start with simple principles, and then an open mind across the whole spectrum for the future. By David Cowan on 14/05/2010 @ 14:30:02 | Country: UK/France
I agree with the senitiment and the suggestions. We need a major overhaul of the elections systems - based on what works best for the convenience and maximum participation of the elector as a customer (have you heard this term before?) and a citizen.
On the latter, many of the complaints derive from citizen irresponsibility (did I register?, did I apply for a postal vote?, not filling in a simple form in properly etc) so Returning Officers should not beat themselves up unduly and the Government and Electoral Commission should understand this point rather than lay voter apathy and some regretable events on 6 May entirely at the door of ROs. By Colin Everett on 01/06/2010 @ 17:28:40 | Country: Wales
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