Centralising electoral management

c2bd1-ballotI gave a paper at the Political Studies Association Annual Conference in Manchester last week.  The paper was on the effects of centralising electoral management.  You can download the paper here.  The paper argued:

Concerns about the quality of electoral management have been raised in many established democracies. The centralisation of electoral management has often been proposed to avoid problems resulting from ‘localism’. However, there is no research on the effects that such centralisation might have in practice. This paper identifies the effects of measures introduced by the UK Electoral Commission to centralise management in two referendums. Semi-structured interviews were used with those who devised the policy instrument and those who were subject to it. The introduction of ‘command and control’ directions from the centre had some predicted positive and some negative outcomes. However, an unpredicted finding was the decline of staff morale and souring of relations amongst stakeholder organisations. The paper therefore argues that the process of making major organisational changes can make the performance of electoral management boards unpredictable and this can have unintended consequences for electoral integrity.


My evidence to Parliament’s Voter Engagement enquiry

Toby JamesI gave oral evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s inquiry into Voter Engagement yesterday.  The Committee is concerned about levels of voter registration and turnout in the UK.  The inquiry is timely because voter engagement is a pressing problem for British elections and democracy. One in five people are now missing from the electoral register and less than 15 per cent cast a ballot at the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in 2012.

There are many reasons why voter turnout and registration levels have dropped. My research shows, however, that making the electoral process more convenient for citizens, and investing in electoral services could make a real difference to levels of registration and voter turnout.

The committee should therefore recommend allowing citizens to register on the day of election, give them the opportunity to register when they come into contact with other government services and keep Internet voting under review.

See my written evidence for further information or watch the session here (I am on from 10:49:34).