Recommendations: Combination of polls in 2020
Recommendation 14: Analysis and consultation on the risks of holding polls on the same day
The next Mayor of London and London Assembly elections are scheduled to take place on the same day as the next scheduled UK Parliamentary General Election. Elsewhere in England, there are scheduled PCC elections and local government elections, which include local council elections, directly elected local authority mayoral elections and combined authority mayoral elections. In Wales, there are PCC elections scheduled.
In our view, this potential combination of polls presents significant risks which need to be mitigated in order to give voters, campaigners and Returning Officers confidence
that the elections can be well-run. In London, specifically:
- There will be two sets of elections, incorporating three methods of voting and four ballot papers: the UK Parliamentary contest uses the ‘first-past-thepost’ system; the Mayor of London contest uses the supplementary vote system; the Constituency London Assembly Member contest uses the ‘first-past-the-post’ system; and the London-wide Assembly Member contest uses the closed list system which is a form of proportional representation. Clear and tailored information for voters on how to cast their vote will be essential to minimise confusion - for example, if the Mayoral and London Assembly ballot papers are counted electronically voters would be advised not to fold the ballot papers, while for the UKPGE the papers should be folded.
- The voting areas for the two sets of elections are different: In London, the Parliamentary elections are currently based on 73 Westminster constituencies (with draft proposals to reduce this number to 68 in 2018) which in some cases are and will be non-coterminous with the 33 London Boroughs. The Mayor of London and London Assembly elections are organised across 14 GLA constituencies (which themselves are combinations of London Boroughs). These differences may cause voter confusion and will also present challenges for political parties campaigning in both sets of elections and for those administering them.
- The timing of the counts and the counting system used in each election will need to be considered alongside expected levels of voter turnout: If ecounting is used in 2020 for the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections with a manual count for the UK Parliamentary election, consideration will need to be given to logistics of each count and the timing, particularly in the event of high turnout. Although counting can commence for the UK Parliamentary election before verification for all elections is completed , the verification of the ballot papers for all four contests will need to be completed before the UK Parliamentary election result can be declared. It is difficult to envisage how a combination of voting enabling manual and electronic counting for the respective polls could be delivered to allow an e-counting process which incorporates verification and counting simultaneously and enable the UK Parliamentary votes to be verified and counted manually on the night of the poll. It is a requirement at a UK Parliamentary general election for the Returning Officer to take reasonable steps to begin counting the votes within four hours of the close of poll.
The UK Government should immediately begin the necessary analysis and consultation on the risks of holding these polls on the same day, including giving consideration to the potential for changing the date of elections currently scheduled to be held in May 2020, so that they do not coincide with the next scheduled UK Parliamentary general election which will be held on Thursday 7 May 2020. The Government should publish its assessment and any proposals for change by September 2017, to allow sufficient time to make any changes to legislation which might be required, and to allow Returning Officers, suppliers, campaigners and the Commission time to prepare.
Any change to the date of scheduled elections would be a significant proposal, and must be informed by appropriate consultation with political parties, the Electoral Commission, relevant Government departments, elected bodies, administrators and voters themselves to ensure that the interests of voters are put first.