5 May this year saw 2.6 million valid votes cast in London, to elect a new Mayor of London, 14 Constituency members and 11 London-wide Members of the London Assembly.
Our detailed report into the conduct and administration of these elections, published today, finds that the elections were well run, with voters reporting high levels of confidence and satisfaction with both registration and voting processes.
However, there were two serious exceptions to the otherwise smooth co-ordination of the polls which meant that some voters, candidates and campaigners did not receive the service they should be able to expect. We consider these in the report and have made recommendations to prevent them happening again.
In Barnet, an error with polling station registers led to a large number of eligible people being turned away from polling stations. This was an unacceptable failure, directly affecting the ability of voters to be able to take part in the elections. The error had its cause in simple human error but had enormous consequences for those affected, and overshadowed the otherwise successful delivery of the poll elsewhere in London.
Human error will always be a risk but processes need to be in place to ensure that all of the necessary checks are made to ensure that voters are able to cast their vote easily on polling day. To reduce the chance of this error occurring in future elections, we have strengthened our existing guidance for returning officer to include checking the content of polling station registers to ensure they are complete and correct.
The second issue related to the e-counting system used for collating the votes at the London count hub. This was the third election for Mayor of London and the GLA where this has been used.
We have previously outlined our concerns about the transparency of e-counting for candidates, agents and other observers at the count venues. These same concerns remain and we therefore continue to ask for the use of e-counting to be assessed in terms of effectiveness, value for money and risk. We recommend that the review be undertaken and available for publication and comment by summer 2017.
The use of e-counting is of a particular concern given the current combination of polls that are scheduled for Thursday 7 May 2020, including both the next set of London Mayoral and GLA elections and the next UK Parliamentary general election. This means that particular consideration will need to be given to the logistics of the count, with a mix of hand- and e-counting.
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.
We believe that there is a significant risk that this combination of polls will increase the potential for voters to find the process confusing, and will present additional challenges for campaigners and electoral administrators. We are therefore recommending that the UK Government 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. It is essential that the interests of voters are put first.
Head of Performance and English Regional Teams