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Official report on the electoral pilot at Gateshead elections published

News release published: 03-06-2008

The piloting of advance voting and signing for ballot papers in Gateshead at Mays local elections was delivered without difficulty, according to an official report published today by the Electoral Commission.

Voters had the opportunity to vote in advance of polling day at the Civic Centre. These voters were required to sign for their ballot papers at the advance voting station, as part of a pilot project held by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council and commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to evaluate all electoral pilots and publish a report within three months of the elections taking place.

Andrew Scallan, Director of Electoral Administration at the Electoral Commission, said:

Despite a tight timescale to get processes in place, the project in Gateshead was well-planned and managed. The delivery of new provisions had no adverse impact on the administration of the election more generally.

The actual security benefits of the current signing for ballot paper provisions are, however, limited in the absence of existing records against which signatures provided at polling stations could be compared. In order to deal effectively with the risk of electoral offences being committed, the security of voting in polling stations must be underpinned by a system of individual voter registration.

Our report concludes that this particular pilot was implemented successfully, however were calling on the Government today to end further piloting of advance voting, which has already been extensively tested, until it has published a clear strategy for modernising the electoral system.

Other key observations in the report include:

  • Advance voting improved convenience and gave electors more opportunity to cast their votes and feedback from advance voters was overwhelmingly positive. However, only a minority of voters used the advance voting station (0.5 percent of overall turnout),limiting the overall success of the provisions;
  • The requirement to sign for ballot papers was widely accepted, with 93 percent of electors saying they felt fairly comfortable or very comfortable with providing a signature and 56% of advance voters saying that requiring a signature gave them more confidence in the electoral process ;
  • The provisions slightly increased the cost of delivering the election in Gateshead Metropolitan Borough. The overall cost of the pilot scheme provisions was £1,190, equivalent to £4.16 per advance voter;
  • The provision of only one advance voting station and use of literature and materials could be reviewed to improve take-up of advance voting
  • Twelve pilot schemes were held across 13 local authority areas across England on 3 May, trialling different methods such as advance voting, signing for ballot papers, electronic voting and electronic counting.

The evaluation reports for each of the 12 pilots, and five themed papers on the methods trialled are available at: www.electoralcommission.org.uk

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For further information contact:

020 7271 0531

email: press@electoralcommission.org.uk 

outside office hours 07789 920414

Notes to editors

1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is public confidence and integrity in the democratic process.

2. Under the Representation of the People Act 2000, local authorities in England or Wales can submit proposals to the Secretary of State to carry out an electoral pilot scheme. Electoral pilot schemes can involve changes to when, where and how voting at local elections is to take place, how the votes cast at the elections are to be counted, or allow candidates to send free election communications to electors.

3. The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to evaluate and report on any pilot scheme approved by the Secretary of State under the Representation of the People Act (RPA) 2000.

Journalist