May’s council elections were well-run with high levels of voter satisfaction, according to a report published today by the Electoral Commission.
Almost 90 per cent of voters were confident the event was well managed, with 98 per cent of people who voted at a polling station saying they were very or fairly satisfied with the process. A similar proportion of postal voters (97 per cent) were very or fairly satisfied.
Turnout at these elections was 39.8 per cent, down from 53.8 per cent in 2007. However, the commission said it was difficult to make useful comparisons between turnout at these elections and previous local polls.
The report stated: “It would be misleading to compare this year’s figure with any Scottish council election turnout from 1999-2007 because council elections in Scotland were held on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament. It is widely accepted that the higher profile elections to Parliament boosted turnout at council elections during this period. In addition, although turnout in 2012 was around five percentage points lower than that recorded at the last standalone council elections, the seventeen-year gap between these polls, and the range of relevant changes in the intervening period, makes it difficult to offer a confident view on the reasons for any difference.”
In 2012, the Electoral Management Board (EMB) for Scotland had a new duty at these polls to co-ordinate the administration of the elections. The report found the work undertaken by the board led to improvements for voters, with all returning officers meeting the commission’s standards for well-run polls.
John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland said: “Our focus is on voters so I am pleased that they were satisfied with their experience of voting at these elections. This is testimony to the hard work of election staff across Scotland.
“We have come a long way since the problems of the 2007 council elections but it would be a mistake to think that we can rest now. There will be a European Parliament election in 2014 and potentially a referendum to decide the future of Scotland. The EMB will need to act now to set in place the structures and resources they will need to coordinate these polls and to ensure they are run to the standards that voters expect.”
“Voters were confident completing the ballot paper with 92 per cent saying it was easy to complete and only 4 per cent saying it was difficult. There were fewer rejected ballots at this election – 1.71 per cent of votes cast as opposed to 1.83 per cent of votes cast in 2007. However, there were considerable variations in the rate of rejected ballots across council wards inScotland.”
However, McCormick said while it was good to see fewer rejected votes, there are still too many. He added: “We need to look at the information that people receive on their doorsteps, in the polling station or through our public awareness campaigns and see whether any changes can be made to help voters.”