The official report of the independent elections watchdog on the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, has found that the interim Elections Management Board delivered a successful election in Scotland, but warned against complacency ahead of a UK Parliamentary general election.
The Electoral Commission report, which was published today, showed that, two years on from the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, the recommendations of the Gould report have been widely debated but not yet fully implemented.
The Commission re-iterated its calls for stronger leadership in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2011 and called on the Scottish and UK Governments to formally recognise the interim Election Management Board in law, as soon as possible.
Whilst the report finds that the election was generally a success, the Commission stressed that no one involved in running elections should be complacent because with a General Election due anytime in the next seven months, there are even greater pressures on the system:
• At European elections, there is a Regional Returning Officer who provides coordination and leadership; we need an Election Management Board to provide this reducing the pressure on Returning Officers.
• A general election needs to be organised in a much shorter period of time as the Prime Minister can announce an election just seventeen working days prior to polling day
• The next general election is likely to have a larger than normal number of candidates and agents, including independents, for whom this is their first election.
During the election, the Commission gathered information about the performance of Returning Officers, the key findings of which are included in this report. The information gathered helps the Commission address any issues that are occurring and work with administrators to improve the service voters receive. As part of this, the Commission has recently sent out an election essentials checklist for all Returning Officers which included things they must do when preparing for the forthcoming general election.
As part of the commitment to learning the lessons of the Gould report, the Electoral Commission has also today published its Making your Mark guidance on the design for ballot papers and other election materials to ensure that voters are clear about what they should do on polling day.
Some recommendations such as making sure voters have easy to read information on how to vote in polling stations and polling booths could be brought in by local authorities ahead of a General Election. Other recommendations will need changes in the law and the Commission will continue to work with Government to implement these recommendations in time for the Scottish Parliament and local government elections in 2011 and 2012.
Electoral Commissioner for Scotland John McCormick said:
“These are the first major Scottish elections since 2007 and this year’s European parliamentary elections could not have been more different. The Scotland-wide coordination through the interim Election Management Board has shown the way forward, so now we’d like to see that momentum built on with the creation of a permanent Elections Convener, recognised in law and with a power of direction.
“With almost 100% of the information supplied by postal voters checked against records already held, Scots voters could be even more confident that their vote was safe and we’d want to see this level of commitment at the General Election too.
“Scottish elections have come a long way, but we all need to work hard to make sure that the voters of Scotland have the best service they possibly can, at the General Election and beyond.”
For further information, copies of the reports, interviews or visuals please contact:
Lynne Veitch of Pagoda PR on 0131 556 0770
Out of hours: 07703 258 834
Notes to editors:
1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections.