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UK General Election was well-run, but electoral system faces serious risks

Published: 6 Dec 2017

June’s UK general election was administered well by local Returning Officers, but the warning signs of an increasingly under-resourced electoral system cannot be ignored, a new report published today by the Electoral Commission concludes.

The report, The Administration of the June 2017 UK General Election, praises local Returning Officers for their handling of the unexpected poll, but calls for urgent action, including modernisation of electoral law, to minimise the risks to the delivery of well-run elections in the future.

Diminishing local authority resources

The 2017 elections saw a small number of areas where problems meant that some voters did not receive the service they should be able to expect. There were also more significant issues with the administration of the UK general election in Plymouth and Newcastle-under-Lyme. These are indicators that more action must be taken now to understand and address the increasing challenges that Returning Officers are facing in delivering well-run elections.

The report highlights that Returning Officers and electoral administrators face reduced resources, while a growing number of skilled professionals are leaving local authority elections teams.

The Commission also calls for the UK’s governments to make progress in implementing the important recommendations made by the UK’s Law Commissions in 2016 to reform and simplify our complex and fragmented framework of electoral law. The Law Commissions’ proposals would bring significant benefits to those who administer elections, as well as voters and those who campaign or stand as candidates, and would support more efficient election administration in future.

Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said:

“Like all of the public sector, local authorities are under increasing financial pressure and unexpected elections can put significant extra strain on them. It is important to ensure that they have the resources and expertise they need to go on running our elections well. Recommended changes to electoral law would also make our electoral processes simpler and more efficient. I urge the UK’s governments to give them urgent consideration.”

The full report is available here.

Ends

For more information, contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk

Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. It works to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:

  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

Journalist