Date: 23 May 2018

Time: 9:30am to 12:30pm

Location: Boothroyd Room, 3 Bunhill Row, London

Date of next scheduled meeting: 

Who was at the meeting

Sir John Holmes (JEH), Chair

Sue Bruce (SB)

Anna Carragher (AC)

Elan Closs Stephens (ECS)

John Horam (JRH)

David Howarth (DH)

Alasdair Morgan (AM)

Bridget Prentice (BP)

Rob Vincent (RV)

Claire Bassett (CB)

Kieran Rix (KR)

Ailsa Irvine (AI)

Robert Posner (RP)

Emma Hartley (EH) on behalf of Craig Westwood

Sarah Chambers (SC) – attending as an observer

Nancy Bruseker (NB)

Polly Wicks (PW)

Phil Thompson (PT)

Tom Hawthorn (TH)

Post elections – Key messages for post-poll report(s) and potential policy implications

AI gave a presentation on post-poll reports and potential policy implications. There were scheduled local government elections in England only. These encompassed 150 local authorities and 5 local directly-elected mayors. There was an election for a Combined Authority Mayor in Sheffield and Voter Identification pilot schemes took place in 5 authorities.

There were only a small number of performance issues identified and polls were well-run in both Plymouth and Newcastle-under-Lyme, further to issues at the June 2017 UKPGE. There was a steady level of electoral administration queries throughout the election period.

Key messages from the May 2018 polls were:

  • Overall the elections were well-run, with no significant problems which affected voters or campaigners
  • While ROs and administrators had delivered well-run polls this time, this did not mean that the pressures on the electoral system we had identified previously had gone away.

AI reminded the Board that there was no statutory duty to publish a report on local government elections, and invited them to consider how we should respond.

EH presented an overview of campaign activity in the run-up to the poll. This had been the first use of our “Got 5?” registration campaign and we had exceeded our ambitious target for applications to register. We had also set high targets for the numbers of additions to the register, and would be able to report more fully on these once we had gathered more data by the summer. For the first time we ran a brand uplift study with Facebook. We saw an 11 percentage point difference in ad recall between the test and control groups. As this was the first time we had run a study like this we didn’t know what a good result was, however Facebook have told us this is really good and we exceeded the benchmark for government campaigns. We had had a relatively low level of public enquiries in the six weeks leading up to the poll, with only a smaller number of enquiries (18 in total) about the voter ID pilots.

TH and PT gave some initial perspectives on the Voter ID pilots. We had deployed over 20 EC representatives as observers across the 5 pilot areas on polling day. They had observed processes operating reasonably smoothly, including where new technology had been used. Feedback suggested that the majority of voters had appeared to be aware of the need to bring ID, although EC representatives did observe some voters being turned away. It was noted that these observations ran counter to some of the negative media coverage both before and after polling day.

JEH noted that a report from Democracy Volunteers on the local election and Voter ID Pilots had been issued. AI acknowledged that this had been an interesting report that would be considered in future evaluation, but noted that the methodology they used was not known, which raised risks that their findings were overstated.

JH asked for an update on issues raised about the poll at London Borough of Tower Hamlets by Peter Golds, Leader of the Conservative Group. AI noted that the Chief Executive and RO for Tower Hamlets, Will Tuckley, had responded in a detailed letter that overall the administration of the polls and count had gone well and had been much improved from the position in 2014, at the last local elections. This corresponded with our observers’ experiences. However there had been one or two unfortunate mistakes, including around Councillor Golds’ own result.

Next steps on the ID pilots would be to analyse detailed data, in order to fulfil our statutory responsibility to evaluate and report back on them. We aimed to compile a high-level report containing conclusions about what needed to happen next and a statutory assessment of schemes and data and publish this before the summer parliamentary recess.

It was noted that there would be a debate in Parliament on 6 June 2018, called by Ellie Reeves MP, whose constituency was in one of the Voter ID Pilot areas, before the report was ready.

Agreed: That:

  • There would be no separate report on the local elections overall.
  • A more detailed report on the ID pilots would be prepared for the June Board.
  • A high-level report containing conclusions about what needed to happen next and a statutory assessment of schemes and data would be published before the summer parliamentary recess.