Commonwealth Parliamentary Association report on the 2015 UK General Election

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You probably didn’t notice them when you came to cast your vote, but hundreds of individuals and organisations from both across the UK and the rest of world came to observe the elections that took place here in May. Observers play a really important part in the democratic process; they bring different insights and expertise into the process, and can make valuable recommendations that help us continue to improve the openness and transparency of our electoral processes.

Among those observing the polls in May were 22 parliamentarians and election officials taking part in a programme organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch (CPA UK). Their reflections and conclusions are summarised in a report published this week.

It’s reassuring to hear that these observers found that the elections were generally well run and “were impressed by the culture of trust, honesty and enthusiasm that was present throughout the entire process.” This is a testament to the hard work of Returning Officers and electoral administrators, and also reflects the importance of openness, transparency and scrutiny of their work.

The report does highlight some areas for the Electoral Commission and others to consider, and we welcome these opportunities for learning.  It is important for all of us who work with and care about our electoral system to reflect both on what went well as well as what could be improved for future elections.

The CPA’s report touches on a range of important issues including accessibility and information for voters. It is worth remembering that some areas highlighted by the CPA are specified in electoral law, which means that the Government and Parliament will also need to consider them. For example, the type of information that can and cannot be displayed in polling stations is set out in legislation. Other detailed recommendations made by the CPA, such as numbering the seals used on ballot boxes for example, are often left to the discretion of Returning Officers locally and so a change to the law would be needed to require a standard approach.

As we complete our own report on the elections, we will reflect on the report’s recommendations, alongside the wide range of other information and feedback we have received from voters, electoral administrators, political parties and voluntary organisations. Look out for another blog post which will highlight some of our own recommendations when our report is published later this month.

Tom Hawthorn
Head of Policy
 

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