Building confidence through voter registration

This week we are celebrating our incredible partners who help us to raise awareness of registering to vote. Here’s a look at our partnership with Shelter Scotland for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

In February, we launched our fourth joint campaign with Shelter Scotland to encourage voter registration ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

Shelter Scotland provides advice, information and advocacy support to people in housing need, and campaigns for lasting political change to end the housing crisis.

Our partnership with Shelter Scotland, which began in 2011, means we can reach more people who are homeless or living in rented or temporary accommodation with our voter registration message. These groups are known to be among the most under-represented people on the electoral registers. Our latest research found that only 70 per cent of people in Scotland living in private rented accommodation were registered to vote, compared to 92 per cent of people who owned their home outright.

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We took our voter registration message and a couple of giant inflatable X’s to the streets of Edinburgh to launch our latest campaign.

“We welcomed the opportunity to join forces again with the Electoral Commission. Whether it’s local, national, European elections or a referendum, Shelter Scotland believes it’s important that anyone who wants to vote should be able to do so.

Registering to vote gives people the opportunity to have their say on a range of issues which may be important to them.”

As part of this campaign Shelter Scotland sent information factsheets and posters to over 200 organisations across Scotland – including housing associations and homelessness service providers – to make sure that whatever their circumstances, people had the chance to vote and make their voice heard.

Shelter Scotland also raised awareness about the campaign through their website, social media and through traditional media channels.

“One of the most striking parts of working on these campaigns is seeing the confidence that registering and voting can instill in people. Often those who are homeless or moving from one temporary accommodation provider to another feel their views don’t matter; that they don’t have a voice and that all power has been stripped from them,” says Electoral Commission partnerships lead, Jonny Mitchell.

“Being told they can register to vote and that their vote matters just as much as anyone else’s can be incredibly empowering and it can be one of the first steps to building their confidence again.”

Read more about @ShelterScotland and #partnerweek @YourVote_UK and on Facebook!

 

Posted in #yourvotematters, Campaigns, Electoral Registration, Scottish Parliament, Uncategorized, voters, voting | 1 Comment

No barriers – enabling the voices of those with learning disabilities

This week we are celebrating our incredible partners who help us to raise awareness of registering to vote. Today we look back at our partnership with ENABLE Scotland to reach out to those with learning disabilities.

To ensure that both the voting process and information about how to register for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election were accessible to all, we worked in partnership with ENABLE Scotland.

ENABLE Scotland is the leading organisation of and for people who have learning disabilities. They provide a wide range of support services for over 2,000 people who have learning disabilities and their families in Scotland. Together with their 5,000 members, they campaign for an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.

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On average, only 30 per cent of people with a learning disability exercise their right to vote. This is incredibly low when we consider that 70 per cent of people who have learning disabilities want to vote, but 60 per cent find the process too difficult.

“We wanted to change that with #ENABLEtheVote. And we were delighted to work with the Electoral Commission to do just that!

People with learning disabilities’ voices aren’t heard. They often face lifelong exclusion and lack of opportunity. If politicians don’t hear their voices, how can they understand the impact their decisions make on their lives?

We were delighted to work with the Electoral Commission to develop co-branded easy read voting guides. Thanks to this partnership, not only were these guides accurate and informative, they benefitted a wider audience.”

To tackle this problem, ENABLE ran a voter registration and information campaign – #ENABLEtheVote – with the aim of ensuring people with learning disabilities can use their vote.

The campaign took an innovative approach to engaging voters who have a learning disability. ENABLE Scotland wrote to leaders of political parties requesting easy read manifestos, with the aim of making the 2016 Scottish Parliament election an #EasyReadElection. As a result of their outstanding work and commitment, they have been nominated as a finalist in the 2016 Herald Society Awards for this campaign.

We teamed up with ENABLE Scotland to develop easy read factsheet resources to help people understand how to register and vote;  how to vote guide, guide for families and carers, guide for service providers, voting walkthrough. 

#ENABLEtheVote worked across the political spectrum, empowering people who have learning disabilities to have their say in Scottish politics; to influence the debate on the issues that matter to them; make informed choices about who to vote for, and increase the number of people who have learning disabilities exercising their right to vote in Scottish elections.

  • 86% of people who have learning disabilities said #ENABLEtheVote helped them make informed decisions about their vote
  • 8 out of 10 exercised their right to vote!

It is crucial for a healthy democracy that there are no barriers to participating in elections and we were proud to have supported ENABLE’s #ENABLEtheVote campaign.

Read more about @ENABLEScotland and #partnerweek @YourVote_UK and on Facebook!

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Electoral Commission’s Strategic Review – Here’s what you had to say…

At the Electoral Commission, we aim to put voters at the heart of everything we do. To make sure that voters can continue to have confidence that the electoral process and party funding regime are run to high standards of integrity, we have been conducting a strategic review into what we do and why we do it.img_8288

Over the summer, we invited people to contribute their thoughts and opinions to the review, and asked for comment on risks and challenges to the electoral process, voters’ priorities and areas of policy that people think the Electoral Commission should be taking a lead on.

One overriding theme emerged from our respondents’ views of voters’ priorities and was mentioned in almost all submissions. This was the view that voters increasingly expect voting to be easily available, including by electronic means. In addition, a large majority of respondents explained that they think electoral modernisation should be an area where the Commission should lead the development of ideas.

Many respondents also described the challenges and risks of delivering local services in the context of diminishing resources and dwindling numbers of experienced electoral staff, with the number and complexity of different electoral events adding to this. However, many respondents also felt that these challenges present opportunities to identify new ways of doing things.

Another common theme that emerged was electoral integrity. Several respondents expressed support for the Commission’s call, first made in 2014, to introduce a requirement to provide photographic ID at polling stations; a recommendation which was echoed in Sir Eric Pickles’ recent review of electoral fraud.

The responses we received also made it clear that regulating party and election finance to achieve transparency and integrity continues to be very important to people. Some respondents made the point that regulation needs to keep pace with modern campaign and fundraising techniques, like crowdfunding and social media campaigning.

Having evaluated the responses we received during the consultation, we are now using them to inform our key priorities for the five years from April 2017, and these will be incorporated into our Corporate Plan. Common across all the responses is a wish for continuous improvements in elections and electoral registration to make sure we uphold a healthy democracy, and your input to the consultation has been invaluable in helping us identify the best way to achieve that.

You can read the full summary of the submissions made on our website.

Posted in Elections, Electoral Commission, Electoral Fraud, Electoral Law, Electoral Registration, General, Uncategorized, voters, voting | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Encouraging homeless people to make their voices heard

This week we are celebrating our incredible partners who help us to raise awareness of registering to vote. Alex, a volunteer for The Wallich, blogs about the importance of reaching out to those affected by housing difficulties or homelessness.

Alex lived in London and had a successful career in higher education before he ran into housing difficulties. He returned from London to South Wales, where his family lived, and over the past year has engaged with a variety of services in the Cardiff area, including The Wallich.

Alex has begun volunteering with The Wallich to get involved in ending homelessness in Wales. He is writing a blog about his experiences and has taken part in video campaigns and research.

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Here’s what Alex had to say ahead of the May 2016 National Assembly for Wales and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Wales:

“I’ve spoken to and encountered plenty of homeless people, many of them using services provided by The Wallich. During these encounters, I’ve heard many articulate, thoughtful and strong opinions about loads of political issues.

It’s pretty obvious that homeless people in Wales are just as politically motivated and politically thoughtful as anybody else, and in some cases, more so. This doesn’t do much good, however, if you can’t use your opinions to change anything, or affect the political decisions made in Wales and Britain.

Registering to vote is the first step. If you don’t do this, you can’t vote, and if you can’t vote, you have no influence on who runs the country in Parliament, who represents us in Europe, or in the Welsh Assembly.  If you’re registered, you can even vote for your local Crime Commissioner, meaning you have a direct effect on law enforcement and legal issues in Wales today.

Registering to vote can also help you do things like rebuild your credit rating. Whatever your views are, and whether you want to vote or not, just registering to vote makes sure that you can be ‘seen’ or ‘counted’ by the system.  If you don’t even register, you can lose representation in Parliament because the number of MPs that exist is based on the number of people on the electoral roll.

I had to register to vote after I recently changed address and it was really easy.  It takes just a few minutes online and if you don’t have a fixed address, there’s a simple paper form to fill in.

It’s a common misconception that homeless people can’t vote – one that’s held by many homeless people themselves.  I’m currently volunteering with The Wallich to encourage homeless people to engage with democracy and make their voices heard.”

Read more about @TheWallich and #partnerweek @YourVote_UK and on Facebook!

Posted in #yourvotematters, Campaigns, Electoral Registration, National Assembly for Wales, police and crime commissioner, Register to Vote, voters, voting, Wales | Leave a comment

A new face for promoting voter registration

Our Head of Campaigns, Emma Hartley blogs about why we have said hello to a new identity to promote voter registration…

We’ve been changing the ways we do things here in Communications at the EC. You may have noticed that we recently launched our new campaign Your Vote Matters Twitter accounts in English and Welsh and rebranded our Facebook page.

These platforms are now spaces for us to provide all the latest information on registering and voting in the UK. By separating our corporate and campaign identities, it means we can better engage with voters and share the remarkable work of local authorities and partners who strive to ensure people in the UK can exercise their democratic right. While simultaneously having a strong voice on issues such as party and election finance and electoral administration through our corporate Twitter feed.

It wasn’t a decision we made hastily to move away from our official Electoral Commission title but is something we all feel passionately about. We live in a world where the media landscape is crowded and attention spans are increasingly short. Thanks to multi-screening, as consumers we now squeeze about 11 hours of media and communications into almost just nine hours each day.

It’s hard to comprehend but one thing is sure, relevance is key. This is something we think about everyday here at the EC when trying to encourage an action – to register to vote – that often stays out of mind for most for much of the year.

Our latest report found that around eight million people in Great Britain are not correctly registered to vote. That means one in six people don’t have a voice on issues that affect them. Across the UK, young people, students and home movers remain the least likely to be registered to vote.

 

www-gifcreator-me_23snvsIt’s these under-registered groups who we target in our mass public awareness campaigns ahead of elections. But we want to keep the conversation going throughout the year. Our Your Vote Matters platforms give us the chance to provide important information in an accessible, tailored way to those who are typically under-represented. It’s also a place where we can meet new organisations who would like to promote voter registration and inspire change in the UK (if that’s you, please do email us!).

Alongside these platforms, we have also launched our new voter registration newsletter, Roll Call. It’s a way for us to share our latest resources with local authorities and partners across the UK but for them to also share the innovative ways they are helping to reach the one in six who are invisible. We’d love to have you on board too.

Do you agree that there are far too many unregistered people in the UK and want to help change that? Sign up to our Roll Call newsletter to get all our latest resources.

Follow us @YourVote_UK, @DyBleidlaisDi and on Facebook!

Emma Hartley
Head of Campaigns

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One Year In – Election Reflections

Today I mark one year at the Electoral Commission. As I look back on what has been a busy 12months, three reflections emerge…

1/ Staying focused on the voter – It is hard to think of a more jam-packed UK electoral calendar than 2016. More than 54 million votes have been cast across polls in total during 2016. Elections have taken place in all corners of the UK – from national, London-wide and local polls, to Police and Crime Commissioner elections and who could forget the small matter of the EU referendum?

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My first year has certainly brought home the sheer scale of operation required to run elections and referendums, not to mention the challenge of planning for a number of polls in parallel. By and large, all the polls have run smoothly. The results have been accepted and the experience for voting continues to be a positive one for the large majority of voters. But that doesn’t just happen by chance. Making sure it all goes to plan takes hard work, dedication and attention to detail on the part of hundreds of electoral administrators around the country. Without them we simply couldn’t cast our vote. An obvious point you might think but one we shouldn’t take for granted.

Voter confidence in the electoral process is an important part of our primary focus at the Commission and something we work with our partners to deliver. This is where our work on fraud, our campaigns about the importance of registering to vote and reports on the effectiveness of recent elections and the referendum have all played an important part. I’m keen that we continue to work with partners, including charities, community organisations and others, to reach voters in new and innovative ways. This external work is key to making sure voters have the information they need and are confident in casting their vote.

2/ Operating in a changing landscape – As I look back on the external environment over the last 12 months, I am struck by the challenges faced by political parties and campaigners. During my first few weeks I prioritised getting out and about to meet with political parties across the UK. It was clear that the terms of engagement are changing significantly and that the way parties communicate is evolving all the time, as is the way voters consume their information. This is something we will need to remain alive to. For example, how will the context of modern campaigning continue to be reflected in our approach as a regulator in the years to come? Indeed that’s one of the emerging themes from our Strategic Review, where we’ve been asking for your views on the Electoral Commission and our focus between now and 2020 and beyond. We’ve had a wide range of responses from across the country so thank you to all those who took the time to send in their views.

3/ Working together for modernisation – Our electoral processes are only fit for purpose if they are workable in the 21st century. Sadly our electoral law in the UK hasn’t quite moved with the times. That’s why we strongly support the Law Commissions’ electoral law reform project. We’re confident that reform will lead to a simpler and more modern law, enabling well-run elections and making it easier for candidates and voters to take part. Again, modernisation is a central thread in many of responses we’ve had as part of our Strategic Review – with many pondering how we can ensure our democratic processes remain fit for purpose and responsive to the needs of voters?

It’s clear that the electoral family (us included) has a real opportunity to work collaboratively and grasp the prospect of updating our electoral building blocks, for the benefit of voting generations to come. We need to be prepared for big challenges ahead and understand which of these building blocks will need to change. For example, are voters in 2025 still going to expect to only be able to vote in person, in a fixed place, on a fixed day, with a stubby pencil? If not, what is the alternative and what will we need to deliver this?

Claire Bassett
Chief Executive

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Voters say EU Referendum was well run, but lessons should still be learnt

THE EU REFERENDUM at Manchester Town Hall and Central

THE EU REFERENDUM at Manchester Town Hall and Central

 

Over recent years, there’s been much debate as to whether democratic participation is on a downward trajectory. That certainly wasn’t the case at June’s EU Referendum. A turnout of 72.2% was the highest UK-wide turnout since the 1992 General Election and almost 6% higher than the 2015 General Election.

As Chief Counting Officer for the referendum I’m pleased that when voters cast their ballot, the overwhelming majority did so with confidence.

Undoubtedly a successful poll is one where the administration receives little comment and subsequent public debate focuses on the consequences of the result. The report we have published today confirms that through careful management of the potential risks associated with the timing and profile of the poll, we saw a referendum that was delivered without any major issues and the announcement of a clear, timely final result.

Following a complex set of polls in May where elections took place in every part of the country, the electoral community went straight into delivering the EU Referendum. Electoral Registration Officers handled 2.1 million additional applications to register to vote resulting in a record high electorate of 46,500,001. However, we now know that 38% of applications made during the campaign were duplicates, placing a huge strain on the resources of local authorities. That is why we have called on the UK Government to develop an online service allowing people to check whether they are already correctly registered to vote before they submit a new application to register.

On polling day itself, 382 Counting Officers across the UK and Gibraltar, along with over 100,000 staff members working in around 41,000 polling stations, contended with a record turnout. The hard work of these thousands of individuals should be celebrated. As a result of their professionalism, 77% of people we spoke to after the poll said they thought the referendum had been well-run.

Another vital building block of our democracy is the legislation that governs elections and referendums. This area is in need of major reform. Our report calls for important changes which have been applied to the different legal frameworks for recent referendums to be incorporated into the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which sets out the standard framework for referendums. In addition, a generic Order for the conduct of referendums should be introduced by the Government now. This would remove ambiguity over the detailed rules for the conduct of referendums each time one of these polls is called.

Clarity and rationalisation are also the aims of the Law Commissions’ electoral review project. As a result they have also made recommendations that support the Commission’s call to have a clear, standard framework and conduct rules for referendums. Government support for these reforms would benefit future governments, electoral administrators and ultimately will give voters certainty as to how any future referendum will be conducted.

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission and Chief Counting Officer at the EU Referendum

 

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