Scots local elections were well run, says commission
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 11 September 2012
The Electoral Commission has given a clean bill of health to the conduct of this year’s Scottish local elections, in marked contrast to the 2007 poll, which caused widespread confusion and anger.
In results published today,
the independent commission found that 89% of voters were confident that the elections, conducted on May 3 under the Single Transferable Vote system, were well run. Some 98% of polling station voters and 97% of postal voters were satisfied with the processes they used.
But both the turnout – at 39.8% – and the proportion of spoiled ballot papers remained disappointing, with figures varying widely from area to area.
In 2007, when the first STV local elections were held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections – which use two quite different voting systems – some 1.83% of ballot papers were rejected by returning officers. This time the failure rate was lower, at 1.71%, but thousands of votes were still wasted.
John McCormick, the electoral commissioner for Scotland, said: ‘While it is good to see fewer rejected votes, there are still too many. We need to look at the information that people receive on their doorsteps, in the polling station or through our public awareness campaigns and see whether any changes can be made to help voters.’
These were the first local elections to be overseen by the commission since its remit was extended last year to include municipal votes. They were also the first to have benefited from the work of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, set up at the same time, to co-ordinate the elections throughout Scotland.
McCormick paid tribute to the work of election staff across the country in improving the service to voters. ‘We have come a long way since the problems of the 2007 elections, but it would be a mistake to think we can rest now,’ he said.
‘There will be a European Parliament election in 2014 and potentially a referendum to decide the future of Scotland. The EMB will need to act now to set in place the structures and resources they will need to co-ordinate these polls and to ensure they are run to the standards that voters expect.’