The effects of public sector austerity on voter outreach

Since Finanical Crisis of 2007-8, austerity has been the dominant theme of UK public policy.  Successive governments have sought to cut back on public spending to reduce the budget deficit.  Austerity has been a key election issue, with cuts to schools and hospitals featuring prominently in election campaigns.

In this new article, with Tyrone Jervier, we set out how public sector cuts have fed into the management of the electoral process.

Here’s the abstract:

Concerns have been raised that insufficient funding has been affecting the delivery of elections in many countries. This paper presents a case study of England and Wales from 2010–2016. It demonstrates that many local authorities saw major real terms cuts and were increasingly over-budget. Those subject to cuts were less likely to undertake public engagement activities. State efforts to encourage voter participation may therefore be a casualty of austerity.

Download the article here (or ask me for a copy).

 

Jeremy Corbyn: where does his ‘success’ stand in Labour’s long history

Jeremy Corbyn summarised many with his party’s result in the 2017 UK General Election.  Immediately after the election, I put his result into historical context in a piece for The Conversation:

Jeremy Corbyn’s stock has been on a wild ride in the last couple of years. When he was elected leader of the British Labour party in 2015, many of his parliamentary colleagues greeted him with disapproval and dismay. The ensuing 18 months of his leadership saw him stumble through various PR disasters, endure the scrutiny of a heavily critical mainstream press, and a botched parliamentary attempt to remove him.

He ultimately won a second leadership election in September 2016 thanks to a strong grassroots movement, and without gaining much credit or support among his colleagues.

But since then, things have changed dramatically. After a shock general election resultbrought two years of Conservative majority rule to an end and saw Labour surge to a once-unthinkable 40% of the vote, many of his harshest critics were falling over themselves to reverse their assessment. “I admit it,” was the tenor of the day, “I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn.”

But in the level-headed mindset between between furious disapproval and euphoric reconciliation, how should Corbyn really be judged?

Read it all, here.

Image credit: Wikipedia.

The 14th Conference of European Electoral Management Boards

2017-05-15 12.06.48.jpgI recently jointly presented research that I’m doing with colleagues from the Electoral Management Research Network (Leontine Loeber, Holly Ann Garnett and Carolien van Ham) at the 14th Conference of European Electoral Management Boards.  The conference took place in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The research looks at how the management of elections can be improved.  My focus is on the role of training, human resource management practices and employee experiences.

I was delighted that the conference provided support for project.  You can read more about the conference and project here.

We will present academic papers from the project at the ECPR conference in Oslo, in September.

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Why isn’t electoral registration fully online?

pexels-photo-331684Are on you on the electoral register?  Can you remember?

The UK recently introduced online electoral registration, but there is no mechanism for citizens to check if they are already registered.  The result is an avalanche of duplicate applications for electoral officials as citizens register again ‘just in case’.

Green Party co-Leader Caroline Lucas MP and I put the case for a simple online checking tool to give citizens ownership of their registration information in this blog on Open Democracy.

Getting students onto the electoral register

The University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia

Introducing individual electoral registration into Britain was long predicted to have had an impact on student registration. Previously, they were automatically enrolled by their universities; now they are not, and many have fallen off the electoral roll as a result. But an amendment passed in the Lords this week would let them register at the same time as they enrolled at university.

With  Lord Chris Rennard and Bite the Ballot’s Josh Dell, we blog about this on the Democratic Audit.

Centralising Electoral Management

policy_studiesWould elections be better run if they were organised centrally by the state?  Or should local electoral officials be given more discretion to accommodate local preferences?

This debate has ran most prominently for decades in the US.  But there has been little academic research on the topic.  I’m therefore pleased to see my article on this in volume 38, issue 1 of Policy Studies.

If you have access, the article is here.  If not, feel free to email me and ask for a copy and I’ll happily send it over.

Here’s the abstract:

‘The public administration of elections frequently fails. Variation in the performance of electoral management bodies around the world has been demonstrated, illustrated by delays in the count, inaccurate or incomplete voter registers, or severe queues at polling stations. Centralising the management of the electoral process has often been proposed as a solution. There has been little theorisation and no empirical investigations into the effects that centralising an already decentralised system would have, however. This article addresses this lacuna by conceptualising centralisation through the literature on bureaucratic control and discretion. It then empirically investigates the effects through a case study of centralisation in two UK referendums. Semi-structured interviews were used with those who devised the policy instrument and those who were subject to it. The introduction of central directions had some of the desired effects such as producing more consistent services and eliminating errors. It also had side effects, however, such as reducing economic efficiency in some areas and overlooking local knowledge. Furthermore, the reforms caused a decline of staff morale, job satisfaction and souring of relations amongst stakeholder organisations. The process of making organisational change therefore warrants closer attention by policy-makers and future scholarship on electoral integrity.’