Opinion Former Article

Unlock Democracy: Electoral Commission report is a 'curate's egg'

Unlock Democracy has welcomed the publication today of the Electoral Commission's latest report on electoral administration but has expressed concern about its proposal to establish Electoral Management Boards across Great Britain.

Commenting on the proposals, Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said:

"We welcome this report, seeking as it does to avoid further debacles like the Scottish elections last year. In particular, we welcome proposals to strengthen the role of individual Returning Officers and to address the present shortfall in funding electoral administration, to simplify law and to establish a principle that all changes in electoral law must be finalised at least six months before any election. In particular, we are keen to see that the recommendation to consider establishing a professional UK-wide electoral registration service becomes a top priority.

"However, the report overall is a bit of a curate's egg and could lead to even greater confusion. It is not clear about what specific problems a network of Electoral Management Boards across the country is supposed to solve and we are concerned that the system could prove unwieldy and bureaucratic. Far from 'strengthening leadership', we are concerned that these boards could undermine the authority of local returning officers and provide contradictory advice.

"Ultimately, changing the way we administer elections will have very little effect if it is not underpinned by enhanced regulation. Vote rigging is at an all time high, yet the government is continuing to focus on gimmicks such as voting by mobile phone and prize draws to increase turnout. It is high time the government put introducing individual voter registration and heightening ballot security at the top of its list of priorities."

Unlock Democracy will be launching a new campaign to improve ballot security later in the year, building on the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust's report Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern (http://www.jrrt.org.uk/recent-publications.html).

ENDS

1. Unlock Democracy, incorporating Charter 88, is the UK's leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms.

2. For more information, a quote or an interview, please contact James Graham on 020 7278 4443 / 07966 237550 / james.graham@unlockdemocracy.org.uk.

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