The future of the Electoral Commission: Have your say!

It’s now been 15 years since the Electoral Commission was established by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, and we’ve worked hard to adapt to some pretty substantial changes over that time. Not only has the nature of politics and campaigning shifted during the past 15 years, but there’s also been a change in the way electors expect to engage with the political process.

Now that the high-profile polls of May and June are behind us, we have seized the opportunity to take stock and reflect on what the role of the Commission might or could be in the future.

We have therefore started conducting a full strategic review of what we do, why we do it and how we deliver our work to help us strive to be a world class public sector organisation that innovates and leads. By achieving this, we can ensure that voters continue to have trust and confidence in our electoral processes and our party funding regime for the next 15 years and beyond.

We are considering questions around the future of voting, including what voting could look like in 2020, how we could move toward this and how we can incorporate changes in technology to fit in with the delivery of elections.

We would like to hear from as many of you as possible to get your thoughts on these three specific questions:

  1. Thinking about your engagement with elections, what are your biggest risks, challenges and opportunities?
  2. Thinking about voter’s involvement in elections, what do you think voter’s priorities will be by 2020?
  3. Identify three areas where you think the Electoral Commission should be leading the development of ideas and/or policy in the next five years.

You can provide your answers and thoughts either through our online survey or by sending an email to strategicreview@electoralcommission.org.uk .

The consultation period runs until 2 September 2016. Following this, we’ll be producing a consultation report.  If you have any further comments and questions regarding the strategic review, please contact us on the email address above.

Claire Bassett, Chief Executive

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Overseas voters – do you need a proxy vote?

Overseas-proxyIf you’re a UK citizen living overseas who has taken the all-important step of applying to register to vote, then you now need to think about actually casting your vote from abroad if you haven’t already done so. The postal vote application deadline has now passed so your only option is voting by proxy (appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf). You can find out more information about that here 

As I will be away from home on polling day, I have also applied for a proxy to vote on my behalf. It may seem obvious, but the first thing I had to do was to find someone on the electoral register that I trust, who could vote for me at my polling station on 23 June.  They had to be eligible to vote in the referendum. The only way that a proxy can vote now is in person at your polling station as the postal vote application deadline has passed. Fortunately I found a willing volunteer, which allowed me to then apply for the proxy vote. I simply printed off an application, completed it with my details and that of my appointed proxy, signed it and then scanned it before returning it to my local elections office (whose details I found at http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/). They confirmed that my proxy application had been successful and that she would receive a proxy poll card that states which polling station she should go to, to vote on my behalf. Finally, I told her how I would like her to vote for me on the day.  

As I work at the Electoral Commission I knew exactly what I had to do, but we know that sometimes UK citizens living overseas don’t realise that they will have to apply for an absent vote separately to their registration. In fact we know this because we asked some of the estimated 5.5 million UK citizens living overseas how many steps there are in the registration and voting process. Out of over 4700 respondents, only 46% realised that there is a two-step process involved in taking part in polls. However you don’t need to wait for your registration to be confirmed before applying for a proxy vote. 

If you have already registered to vote at a local authority in Great Britain, but you haven’t already chosen how to vote, then you should apply for a proxy vote by 5pm, 15 June. There’s no time to be lost though, so make sure you can take part and make your proxy application today. 

Mazida Khatun
Senior Communications Officer

 

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EU Referendum Briefing Event – Tuesday 21 June

polling stationAhead of June’s historic EU Referendum, the Electoral Commission is hosting a Briefing Event for international visitors planning to observe the EU Referendum, including Senior Officials from Electoral Bodies across the world. If you’re an academic, work for an international body that observes elections or have a long-standing interest in elections and referendums then this could be the perfect event for you.

The day is being coordinated and delivered by Dods on our behalf and will take place on Tuesday 21 June in Central Manchester, UK.

While the briefing is mainly designed for international visitors it’s also open to those based in the UK.  The briefing is a unique opportunity to hear direct from the Chief Counting Officer for the referendum, Jenny Watson, in the last few days before this historic poll. There will also be a range of experts speaking about the background to the referendum and the campaigning activity that has taken place over the past few months.

Event Details When: Tuesday 21 June

Where: Central Manchester, UK

Timings: 10.00-17.00 (followed by short reception) 

Fine print: This event is free (including lunch). However, neither the Electoral Commission nor Dods is able to book or cover any travel, accommodation or subsistence.

Places for this event are limited and will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. If you are you or a colleague is interested in attending the briefing please contact Referendum2016@dods.co.uk to request a place or find out more. 

If you’d like more information about observing at elections and referendums in the UK, including the details of the accreditation process, you can find everything you need to know on our website.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Suzanne King
Senior Communications Officer

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Get #ReferendumReady in just two steps

Infographics 1200 x 630 pixels hiThere’s just over a month to go until the historic EU Referendum, but there are UK citizens living overseas who still aren’t #ReferendumReady. There are just two steps to take before being ready for the referendum – registering to vote and choosing how to vote.

A lot of people aren’t aware that it’s possible to register as an overseas voter for certain UK polls, including the upcoming EU Referendum. Many expats are eligible to vote and can take the first step by going online to register to vote at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

We asked some of the estimated 5.5 million UK citizens living overseas whether they know that it’s possible to register online to vote. Out of over 4700 respondents, only half knew that they can now register online to vote. Before online registration became available in June 2014, applicants had to complete a paper application before posting it back to the Electoral Registration Officer for the local authority where they were last registered in the UK. The need for overseas voters to provide an attestation from another UK citizen also living in the same overseas locality) has also been removed when certain details are provided. What used to be a real hassle can now be done online in five minutes with just your National Insurance number and passport to hand.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a National Insurance number as you can still register, but you may be asked to supply more information to confirm you identity. If you don’t have a British passport you will be asked to provide an additional statement as part of your application.

More than 275,000 applications to become an overseas voter have already been submitted through this simpler registration journey since the online registration system was made available in June 2014. There have been 80,000 applications alone since our overseas voter public awareness campaign kicked off in mid-March, but we know that there are many more UK expats who have yet to register. In fact when we asked expats their reasons for not voting, 21% of the respondents we spoke to who did not vote in 2015 said that they did not know they could.  When asked their reasons for not voting, a further 21% of respondents who did not vote in 2015 said that they did not know how they could register and vote, and yet it’s much easier now.

To be #ReferendumReady, you don’t even need to wait for you registration to be confirmed before moving onto the next step which is choosing how you wish to vote. Living overseas you’re unlikely to be able to vote in person back in the UK so the choice is really between voting by post or by proxy (voting by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf).

We know there is some concern that overseas voters may not be able to vote by post in time based on their experience at the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election. If you register to vote by 16 May it should be easier to vote by post as postal votes for the referendum will be sent out earlier than usual, giving you a bit more time to receive, complete and return your ballot pack to the UK.

If you don’t think you can return your postal vote papers in time or you find yourself applying after 16 May you should consider voting by proxy. If you want to vote by proxy, bear in mind that the person you choose to vote on your behalf must be registered and eligible to vote at the referendum.

Once you’ve completed this second step you’ll be #ReferendumReady for 23 June. As the EU Referendum is going to be such a significant referendum in which lots of UK citizens will want to participate, please spread the word to fellow British expats. We’ve even created a guide to help you get the message out so take a look and think about doing at least one of the things listed.

Alex Robertson
Director of Communications

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What a great day for democracy!

Ballot boxThe sun is shining, polling stations are open and people are out and about voting.

What has made the day great so far for me is taking my children to the polling station to vote.

I had two excited faces this morning when I told my children I was taking them with me to vote before school. Mummy works in elections and not only do they feel a part of what mummy does but also I have found this to be a way of explaining what mummy does.

I am lucky enough to live in an area where the local candidates are well known in the community and to my children – hence the smiley faces!

Seeing the local candidates at the polling station this morning and then their names on the ballot paper made the process even more exciting for us all and a sense of really belonging to our community and taking part in the elections.

Once in the polling station, I explained to my children what elections I was voting in (the locals and the police and crime commissioner), which coloured ballot paper related to which election and how many crosses I had to mark on each paper.

I also explained why people vote and the importance of doing so, and that people vote for lots of other things too like who will will the X factor – I think that one might have clinched it!

Once I had completed my ballot papers I handed the orange one (local) to my daughter who popped it in the ballot box for me and my son popped the white paper (PCCs) into the other one. Once again done with a smile and a sense of ‘I have done something good today mummy’.

We then left the polling station we had a chat with the candidates, wished them luck and had our photo taken to mark the occasion.

Then it was off to school where they were able to tell their friends and teachers what we had been up to before school. The deputy head, who was teaching my daughter this morning, was telling the other children that he had to go and vote later and how important democracy is. I hope that we may have also some reminded some other teachers, and maybe parents too, to vote today.

Democracy is important. It enables us to have a voice and a say in who is elected to represent us. It can also be a fun family outing as it was for me today.

So I encourage you to make sure you go out and vote today in the glorious sunshine and take the kids along too.

Katy Knock
Policy Manager
The Electoral Commission

 

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The making of the London elections campaign

Job ref: GEN220316

Senior Marketing, brand and Digital Manager Dayna Brackley in front of the City Hall 2016 Election posters on 22.03.16

Dayna Brackley takes us behind the scenes of the #LondonVotes public awareness campaign in the lead up to the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections on Thursday 5 May.

I am the Senior Manager of the marketing, brand and digital team at City Hall. It is my role to run our marketing campaign ahead of the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections on Thursday 5 May. I have a team of 10 people working on all of the different elements.

The purpose of our #LondonVotes campaign is to make sure Londoners know how, when and where to vote on 5 May.

At City Hall we always try to put Londoners’ needs first. So when we started to think about our public awareness campaign, we decided who better to ask what they wanted to know than Londoners themselves?

There were a few things the people of London told us they needed from our campaign. It needed to stand out and be bold. It needed to tell them very specifically what they were voting for. Importantly, it needed to tell them how their vote could make a difference. And lastly, it needed to tell them when, where and how they could vote.

We got to work and came up with a series of visually striking posters in bright pink and teal with the date as our main image. You can see them on the Underground, across buses and at bus stops, as well as online and in local press. You can also hear our ads on the radio.

In planning our campaign we have responded to the change in audience behaviour since the last London elections in 2012. Now around 96 per cent of people in London own a mobile phone, over 50 per cent own a tablet and almost 70 per cent of us use YouTube to watch videos. So we had to adapt our content to continue to engage people, like this gif filmed outside City Hall just last week.

The other big change is our use of social media. We want to ensure people can get the answers they need in the lead up to the elections. So we are training our staff at City Hall so we can provide Londoners with prompt, helpful information throughout the campaign.

Very soon Londoners will also receive our voter information booklet through their letterboxes. It includes mini-manifestos from Mayoral candidates and information on how to vote. It’s bright pink so it can’t be missed!

The Mayor of London has such an important remit. The Mayor makes decisions about London housing, transport, policing and the environment – things that affect the people of this city every day. It’s the job of the Assembly to hold the Mayor to account on these issues. So it’s essential we ensure Londoners have all the information they need to have their say on 5 May.

To vote in the Mayor of London and London Assembly elections, you must be registered to vote by midnight on Monday 18 April. Register online now at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

To find out more about the London elections, visit www.londonelects.org.uk or follow @LondonElects on Twitter.

 

 

 

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Registering to vote doesn’t have to be a drag!

Maverick 23.03.16

Ballot boxes and drag queens- not exactly two things that spring to mind as perfect partners, but as the largest organisation which supports the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, we at The Rainbow Project decided to attempt to juxtapose the two as we sought to take politics to the dancefloor as part of our #OUT2Vote campaign.

We are currently leading a campaign across Northern Ireland to encourage the LGBT community to get registered to vote for the upcoming N Ireland Assembly election on 5 May 2016. A key element of this campaign is targeting young voters, and those who may never have voted before, to ensure they make their voice heard on 5 May and are #OUT2Vote.

When thinking about how to target this group, it seemed natural to partner up with commercial LGBT venues across Belfast, and led by our wonderful #OUT2Vote volunteers, we did just that and on our launch night on 23 March we, with some trepidation, took politics to the dancefloor for the first time.

We were very lucky that one of our commercial partners, Maverick Bar was fully behind the campaign and agreed to rebrand their weekly Wednesday night drag queen show as “Vote Please,” and led by the fabulous queens Roxy Tumbledryer and Rusty Hinges we urged the revellers to ensure they were registered to vote. Of course there were risks involved with our approach- would people want to talk politics on a social occasion? Would they be dismissive or abusive? However the opportunity to actually inform and educate people about the need to vote in an environment where they felt relaxed outweighed these concerns.

The morning after the night before it appeared our approach drew dividends- our three volunteers managed to register 30 people in just two hours. Feedback from the bar staff also indicated that after we left at midnight a number of people lifted voter registration forms from our table to take home also, so the reach was even wider than we anticipated.

Many of the people we spoke to weren’t even aware that they needed to register, and many more had changed address, unaware that they were potentially going to lose their vote if they didn’t update the Electoral Office.

Moving forward in the run up to the registration deadline of 18 April, we will be visiting even more venues to spread our message to those in the LGBT community who may feel disengaged from local politics. Click here to view our upcoming events, and make your voice heard!

Registering to vote is easy, you simply need to download a voter registration form from aboutmyvote.co.uk and send it to your local area electoral office to arrive before the 18 April registration deadline.

 

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