Local Government Committee Recommend Ballot Research

10/06/2008

Ballot papers cast in the May 2007 local government elections should be examined, according to a report published today by the Local Government and Communities Committee

The recommended research should establish what the proportion of single “X” ballot papers was and whether this indicates any issue with the first roll out of STV in Scottish local government elections.

Speaking about the committee’s Elections 2007 Report, Committee Convener Duncan McNeil MSP said:

“The committee is concerned that the system of numbering preferences required by the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in the local government elections of 2007 was not the success it has been claimed . While the rate of rejected ballots was lower than that of the Scottish Parliament elections, it was still unnecessarily high. There were also issues around ballot design, electronic counting and the fact that the elections took place on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections.

“To restore public faith in the electoral process, the committee also recommend establishing a chief returning officer for Scotland , a decoupling of local government elections from national elections and effective voter education and engagement.

“In essence, the committee’s report sets out how those responsible for administering local government elections can ensure that the people of Scotland have confidence that a vote cast is a vote counted.”

Among the committee’s other recommendations are –

  • Further investigation of the Northern Ireland model and chief returning officer equivalent should be carried out with a view to considering it for Scotland .
  • Ballot papers should be easy to complete and result in a fair reflection of the views of the voter.
  • More consistent and rigorous training of information officers and improved voter information campaigns through public forums and school events.
  • A scrutiny role for the committee on the work of the Elections Steering Group and a chief returning officer.
  • Exploration by the Scottish Government into greater use of postal voting as a means of improving voter participation.

Background

The Local Government and Communities Committee agreed at its meeting of 7 November 2007 to take oral evidence on the content of the Gould report and to consider its recommendations in relation to their impact on local government elections.

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