Electoral Watchdog calls on Scottish Government to support its push to reform outdated, fragmented law

Conduct of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election

The Electoral Commission has today released its report into the conduct and administration of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election which took place on 5 May 2016.

The Commission’s report finds that the elections in Scotland were well-run with high levels of voter satisfaction. Over 2.2 million voters participated in the election, the highest number ever at a Scottish Parliament election. The Commission’s research with voters found that they were confident that the election was well-run and found it easy to complete their ballot papers.

Approximately 80,000 16 and 17 year olds registered to vote in the election, the first at which they were entitled to vote. The Commission found that awareness of the ability to register to vote online was highest amongst this age group and the majority (89%) said that it was very or fairly easy to access information on how to cast their vote. Almost all of them (99%) said that they found it easy to complete the ballot paper.

John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said:

I am pleased to report that the election was well-run, which is testament to the hard work and dedication of Returning Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and their staff.

The Electoral Management Board played a key role in providing expertise, co-ordination and challenge to the electoral community to ensure that voter’s needs were at the heart of the process at this election. However, they continue to deliver their role on a non-statutory footing with continued uncertainty about future resourcing. This cannot continue and governments need to give the EMB a statutory role for all elections, as they already have for council elections in Scotland

Reforming the Law

The Commission also sets out in its report that current electoral law has grown so complex and fragmented and in many places out of date, that it hampers the effective and efficient delivery of elections. A consolidated, simplified, updated and improved set of laws (made in Scotland for the administration of devolved elections) would enable elections to be run much more efficiently and cost-effectively than at present. It would also ensure that the law is fit for purpose and more accessible to those who need to use it, including candidates and voters.

John McCormick added:

We need electoral legislation fit for the twenty first century so we continue to support the Law Commission’s review of electoral law which would simplify and improve electoral law in the UK. We urge the Scottish and UK Governments to support the work of the Law Commissions to enable the project to move on to the next stage, allowing the Law Commissions to start drafting new law in time for it to be implemented before the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

Further recommendations

In its report, the Commission has also made wider recommendations to support the development of modern electoral process which keeps pace with the changing needs of voters.

This includes recommending that the UK Government should develop an online system that would allow voters in Scotland and across the rest of the UK to check whether they are already registered before they submit a new application, reducing the current burden on both electoral administrators, who have to process large numbers of duplicate applications and on voters, who currently have no means of checking online whether their details are up to date ahead of each poll.

The Commission also recommends a requirement for Returning Officer’s to publish candidate expense returns online in order to increase transparency in the system.

The full report is available on the Commission’s website here: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/214888/2016-Scottish-Parliament-election-report.pdf


For further information contact Electoral Commission press office:

Extra notes

Notes to editors

  • The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up in 2000. 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 and are responsible for the conduct and regulations of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000). For Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland, we take on a number of roles to administer the elections for which we report directly to the Scottish Parliament.
  • Alongside the Scottish Parliament election there were a range of other polls taking place in the UK on 5 May. These include: National Assembly for Wales; Northern Ireland Assembly; Greater London Authority and Mayor of London; Police and Crime Commissioner (England and Wales) – excluding London and Greater Manchester; Local government across parts of England and Mayoral elections (Bristol, Liverpool and Salford); UK Parliamentary by elections in Ogmore, Wales and Hillsborough and Brightside, England
  • Reports on the conduct of these polls will be published on our website