A referendum on the voting system for UK Parliamentary elections took place on 5 May 2011. This was the same day as scheduled elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and some parts of England, and the poll for the referendum was combined with the polls for those elections.
After the referendum
The referendum result
The final result of the UK-wide referendum was declared on 7 May 2011, delivering a 'no' to changing the UK Parliamentary voting system.
Report on the costs of the referendum
Our report on the costs of the May 2011 referendum on the UK Parliamentary voting system sets out, for the first time, the total cost of running a UK-wide poll. The cost of the 2011 referendum was just over £75million.
Report on the referendum
We have now published our report into the UK-wide referendum held on 5 May 2011.
View the related research reports:
- Public opinion survey on elections and referendum on 5 May 2011 (PDF)
- Post-polling day topline research findings for 5 May 2011 (PDF)
- 2011 Parliamentary voting system referendum - electoral data (XLS)
- Parliamentary Voting System referendum – report on electoral data (PDF)
- May 2011 polls – media content analysis report (PDF)
We have also published details of campaigners' spending at the referendum.
Our role in running referendums
Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, is Chief Counting Officer for this referendum. As such, we issued a number of statements in the run-up to the referendum.
The PVSC ActThe UK Parliament passed the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies (PVSC) Act which provides for a referendum to be held on the voting system for UK Parliamentary elections on 5 May 2011.
- View the statement from Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission and Chief Counting Officer, on the PVSC Act (PDF)
The PVSC Act contains the rules for running this particular referendum, and for the how the combined polls should be run, and also contains the rules for those who wish to campaign in the referendum.
Preparedness for a 5 May polling day
In July 2010 we published a statement defining a number of practical risks that would need to be addressed to ensure the smooth running of the polls on 5 May 2011. In November 2010, we set out how preparations are progressing.
As the Chief Counting Officer for the proposed UK referendum, our Chair, Jenny Watson, has written to politicians and other people involved with information on how she plans to run the referendum. She also defines how we will build public awareness of all the polls planned for 5 May 2011 and how to take part in them.
- Example letter from Jenny Watson, our Chair and Chief Counting Officer for the referendum (PDF)
- Our public awareness campaigns – Spring 2011(PDF)
When will the votes be counted?
On 11 November 2010, we published a consultation paper on the timing of the count for the referendum. The paper outlined the Chief Counting Officer's preferred position and asked for views. Following responses received to the consultation, the Chief Counting Officer has now set out her decision on when the votes should be counted.
What question were voters asked?
The question that was on the referendum ballot paper was:
'At present, the UK uses the 'first past the post' system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the 'alternative vote' system be used instead?
Our question assessment
We assessed the question initially proposed by the Government when the legislation for the referendum was first introduced to Parliament. We carried out research to see whether voters could understand the question and reported our findings in September 2010. Following this, the question was changed to reflect our recommendations on making the question easier to read.
- News release on our findings
- Summary of our views on the referendum question (PDF)
- Full report of views of the Electoral Commission on the referendum question (PDF)
- Research Report: Voting System for electing MPs to the House of Commons: Referendum Question Testing (PDF)
- Executive summary of the research report (PDF)
- Submissions from people with an interest in the question (PDF)
- The process for assessing the referendum question(PDF)
- Our referendum question guidelines (PDF)
Information for voters
Information about how to register to vote for the elections and referendum on 5 May was available on www.aboutmyvote.co.uk, including frequently asked questions such as how to apply for a postal vote and what to do if you move house.
Our public awareness campaign for 5 May launched on Friday 1 April. As part of the campaign, we sent out around 27 million information booklets, one for every household in the UK. This was supported by an advertising campaign across television, radio and online.
Guidance for campaigners
Designation of lead campaigners
We designated ‘Yes in May 2011 Ltd’ (campaigning as ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’) as the lead ‘Yes’ campaigner and ‘No Campaign Limited’ (campaigning as ‘NO to AV’) as the lead ‘No’ campaigner in the referendum on 5 May. The two campaigners had access to benefits including an increased campaign spending limit of £5 million each, a public grant of up to £380,000 each, referendum broadcasts, a free delivery of campaign material to voters and the use of public rooms.
Instructions and guidance for combined polls on 5 May 2011
The Chief Counting Officer issued instructions for running the referendum. We also published guidance for those administering elections scheduled for the same day.
Producing forms for 5 May polls
We also published the wording for all forms required by electoral administrators to enable people to cast their vote. Our materials included PDF examples and instructions on how forms should be designed.