Sweeping legislative change and proper resourcing is needed to avoid electoral failure in the UK, that’s the warning from the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) as it launches a new blueprint for electoral reform.
In a report published today (12 July 2021) the AEA calls on governments across the UK to take decisive action to reduce risk and bring capacity to elections by implementing:
- A single Electoral Administration Act.
- An extended 30-day electoral timetable – up from 25 working days – for all polls, including UK Parliamentary General Elections.
- Earlier deadlines for absent voting applications to meet voters’ needs, including those living overseas.
- A full review of electoral funding to reduce the burden on local authorities.
The blueprint is accompanied by a post-polls review of the 6 May 2021 elections. It highlights endemic problems within the current electoral system plus lessons learned from running polls during a pandemic, including the need for:
- A locally triggered cap on the maximum number of polls held on one day.
- A consistent position across UK Government departments on which premises should legally be made available for polling.
- Clear national public health guidelines and simple risk assessments for all aspects of the electoral process during a pandemic.
- Pandemic good practice from across the UK to be collated and incorporated into future business continuity planning.
Launching the report, AEA chief executive Peter Stanyon said: “Serious and sweeping reform is needed to increase capacity and resilience within our electoral system. We hope governments will take on board this blueprint for reform to meet the modern needs and expectations of electors.
“Over 75 pieces of primary legislation apply to the running of elections, and we’re facing voter ID, new UK Parliamentary constituency boundaries and votes for all overseas UK electors being introduced by the next general election. The pressure on Returning Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and electoral administrators is too great, and the risk of failure is increasing. The time for piecemeal amendments is over.”
Alex Mammous, AEA chair, stated: “These reports distil the experience and expertise of professionals working on the frontline of elections. They want to continue delivering safe, secure, and accurate elections the public have trust in, but cannot do that without increased capacity and resilience. We will continue to work closely with governments, the Electoral Commission and the wider electoral community to make that happen.”