Independent observation is a crucial part of our electoral process. It helps to ensure that elections are carried out in a transparent, accessible, impartial and secure way.
In 2006, the UK introduced a scheme that allowed individuals and organisations to observe at elections. After more than ten years in operation, we decided it was time to review the scheme, taking into account lessons about how it has worked to date.
This summer we held a consultation to seek views on the scheme and our proposed changes to the Code of Practice for observers. We heard from a range of stakeholders – from those with experience of taking part in the scheme to those who administer elections. All respondents largely welcomed the changes we had proposed. Based on their feedback, we have made changes to modernise the electoral observation scheme, making it easier for people to take part.
These changes include:
- A new online application process
- A redesigned electoral observer ID badge to distinguish between Electoral Commission staff and accredited observers
- Improved guidance for electoral observers and those running elections.
- The introduction of a voluntary feedback mechanism for electoral observers that can be used from the next scheduled elections in May 2019.
Electoral observation is a great opportunity to see how UK elections are run. From the issuing of the postal ballots to polling stations and the counting of the votes, electoral observers are able to see our democracy in action. They can choose whether to inform the electoral officials in their area that they intend to observe – but also have the option to make unannounced visits if they wish.
It is not all just watching other people work – observers can also make an impact on how elections are run. For example, they can choose to give feedback to the people who organised the election in their area or to the Electoral Commission on what they’ve seen to help improve future elections.
Anyone over the age of 16, including those from outside of the UK, can apply to become an electoral observer. However, each observer must maintain the secrecy of the poll and act with political impartiality at all times.
As part of the changes we have made to the electoral observer scheme, you can now complete your application online on our website.
Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance