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.’