It is general election night in the U.K. In advance, here was my guide that I wrote for the night on The Conversation
I 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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Are 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.
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.
Would 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.’
Yesterday, the voter ID debate took off in Britain. Here are some analysis on the Democratic Audit blog:
‘Christmas is a time for tinsel, presents and major policy announcements about British electoral law, it seems. Yesterday, the government announced it would accept many of the policy proposals laid out by Eric Pickles in his report on Securing the Ballot. The headlines focussed on the decision to pilot a requirement for voters to show ID before being given their ballot paper in polling stations…..’
Read it all here
The Scottish Parliament Select Committee on Local Government and Communities is undertaking a review of the payments made to Returning Officers for their work at elections.
Concerns were raised in the media about the amount of money that Returning Officers receive because they are already highly paid officials.
In my evidence, I suggest that Returning Officers play:
‘3. …an essential role in the electoral process. They face an increasingly challenging job. They have therefore been able to reclaim a fee for their services to recognise that their role is independent of their other tasks. Some Returning Officers use their fee to pay more junior staff, who work hours above and beyond their normal duties at election time, there should be caution in scrapping or making rapid reductions to it.
4. It is, however, right that the fee is regularly reviewed, especially in the context of resource constraints within electoral services and wider public sector austerity. There might be some opportunity to divert resources to other areas of elections.
5. There should… be a wider review of funding of elections in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Essential to this is the routine reporting of funding and spending to ensure transparency, increase public confidence and allow an analysis of areas requiring further investment or efficiency savings.’