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									                                                                       Item 05, Appendix 2

GLA Elections – 4th May 2000

The Electoral Reform Society welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Committee’s
questions about the GLA Elections on 4th May 2000. This is the first part of our
submission to the GLA Elections Investigative Committee and will cover a range of issues
concerning the Election management and operation. We will also respond in due course
to the Committee’s questions concerning Electorate engagement.

The Society has decided to only provide brief responses on the following issues:

   1. Early voting
   2. Electronic counting
   3. Spoilt ballots

We have no comments to make on the other areas raised in the Election management
and operation section of the factsheet.

This submission will not make specific recommendations concerning early voting,
electronic counting or spoilt ballots, but will simply raise some of the issues that the
Committee may wish to consider for future GLA Elections.

The Society would like to bring to the Committee’s attention the establishment by the
Electoral Reform Society of an independent commission looking into electronic voting
and counting and also postal voting. It is likely that this Commission will report, at least
in part, in the autumn of 2001 and that its report may provide some useful
recommendations for the Committee’s work. The Commission’s work on postal voting,
to which the Society has not commented in this submission, may be of particular help to
the investigation.

The Electoral Reform Society would therefore be grateful for the opportunity to feed
this work into the Committee’s review perhaps via the evidentiary hearings in
1.   Early Voting

     §   The DETR decided to introduce a number of “innovations” to (as the former
         Minister for London Keith Hill said) “make voting more convenient” at the GLA
         Election on 4th May 2000. At the same time in many local authorities a number
         of voting experiments were undertaken during the local elections. In London
         however the experiment was limited to early voting. From Thursday 27th April to
         Saturday 29th April some polling stations in each borough opened between 7am
         and 9pm to enable the electorate to cast their votes in advance. On polling day
         the polling hours were extended by one hour to begin at 7am rather than 8am.

     §   Keith Hill MP reported on 29th June 2000 about the success of the experiment.
         He stated that about 3% of voters took advantage of the extended polling hour
         in advance of polling day and that another 3% voted between 7am and 8am on
         polling day. “In some polling stations 11% of voters voted in the first hour. Most
         were on their way to work and 20% said that they would not have been able to
         vote at another time on the day. More people preferred the polls to open an
         extra hour in the morning rather than later in the evening.”

     §   ERS comment: The Society does not have a particular view on, and certainly
         does not oppose, the extension of voting hours. However we do not believe that
         the fact that 6% of voters took advantage of the extended voting hours is
         particularly significant. As only 20% of those who voted early said that they
         would not have been able to vote at another time, this “innovation” only added
         an extra 1% to turnout.

     §   Nevertheless these results are positive in the light of the early voting
         experiments in the local elections on the same day. In some of these
         experiments only 0.5% of the electorate voted early.

     §   The Electoral Reform Society welcomes any measures which will make voting
         easier, but it is clear that early voting will not make a great difference to

2.   Electronic Counting

     §   The decision to use electronic counting machines seems mainly to have been as
         a result of concerns that a manual count of the election could take three days to
         count the result. This system was used in 1998 in Bosnia-Herzegovina and it was
         hoped that the machines would deliver the results by breakfast time on the 5th
         May 2000.

     §   Voters were asked not to fold their ballot paper in the traditional way as the
         machines could only read unfolded paper. Notices in every polling booth told
         voters to put their papers in the box with the blank side upwards to ensure
         privacy. The machines work in the same way as equipment used to mark
         multiple choice exam papers - with sensors able to detect where crosses have
         been made and translating it into votes. However the results were delayed to

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         around midday on 5th May due to technical problems with the counting

     §   The GLRO’s report to the DETR claimed that “Ministers can be satisfied that the
         first use of electronic counting in an election of this size and complexity went
         well.” The technical problems were in part due to the fact that a larger than
         expected number of ballot papers were out-sorted by the scanning machines for
         manual checking, before they were entered into the system. The former Minister
         for London also commented that “as this was the first time that staff had used
         an electronic counting system in an election, they quite rightly took time to
         make sure that the new procedures were followed properly. These factors
         inevitably slow things up.”

     §   ERS comment: The Society doubts that a manual count would have taken
         three days. Whilst electronic counting certainly speeds up the counting process
         (particularly under proportional systems), manual counts in other elections
         conducted under the AMS system (for example in Scotland and Wales) were
         completed in hours rather than days.

     §   The entire process of electronic counting, however, may be made more efficient
         if electronic voting were also introduced. We would therefore recommend that
         the investigation look into the possibility of introducing electronic voting and
         counting for future GLA elections.

     §   As has been mentioned above the Society’s Commission on Electronic Voting
         and Counting will be making recommendations of the use of electronic counting
         in public elections in the autumn.

3.   Spoilt ballots

     §   There was some confusion around the time of the 4th May 2000 Election
         concerning the seemingly large increase in the number of “spoilt” ballot papers
         and criticism that this was due to the new electoral system.

     §   However a great number of these ballot papers were not in fact “spoilt”, but
         were votes that the electorate had chosen to not cast. Votes were recorded as
         “rejected” rather than “spoilt” and were put into four different categories:

         §   Voter ID discernible: Marks on the ballot paper had identified the voter.
         §   Multi vote: The voter had cast more than one choice.
         §   Blank Papers: No vote had been cast.
         §   Uncertain votes: After personal adjudication the voter’s intention was not

     §   For example if a voter selected a first choice for Mayor, but did not use the
         second preference vote or the Assembly votes, a total of one valid vote and
         three “rejected” votes would have been recorded.

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4.1   Spoilt and blank papers in the Mayoral contest

      §   In the Mayoral election out of a total number of 1,752,303 ballot papers
          counted 331,309 (18.91%) were “rejected”.

      §   The vast majority of the “rejected” ballot papers - 292,160 (16.67%) – were
          Uncertain or Blank in the 2nd Preference ballot.

      §   The figure for “rejected” ballot papers in the Uncertain or Blank category of the
          2nd Preference ballot was much higher than those rejected in this category of
          the 1st Preference ballot (12,526 - 0.71%). Therefore it would seem very likely
          that the vast majority of these 292,160 “rejected” votes are due to voters
          choosing not to give a second preference for Mayor.

      §   Robert Hughes, the Greater London Returning Officer (GLRO), has in fact
          suggested that the true figure for “spoilt” votes rather than blank votes is likely
          to be in the region of 1%, which he claimed is about average for a UK election.

                                            1st Preference              2nd Preference
           Multi Votes                     24,921 (1.42%)               1,008 (0.06%)
           Voter ID Discernible             694 (0.04%)                  694 (0.04%)
           Uncertain or Blank              12,526 (0.71%)             292,160 (16.67%)

           Total Rejected Votes          331, 309     (18.91%)
           Total Votes                  1,752,303

4.2   “Spoilt” or “Rejected” ballots in the Assembly election

      §   In the Constituency ballot 9.9% and in Additional Member ballot 5.4% of the
          papers were “rejected”.

      §   The majority of the “rejected” ballot papers were in the Uncertain or Blank
          category (9.6% of Constituency ballots and 4.5% of Additional Member ballots).

                                     Constituency                  Party votes
          Multi Votes                   3,625          (0.2%)    13,816 (0.8%)      (0.8%)
          Voter ID Discernible           572          (0.03%)     569 (0.03%)      (0.03%)
          Uncertain or Blank           157,505         (9.6%)    73,757 (4.5%)      (4.5%)
          Total Rejected               161,702         (9.9%)    88,142 (5.4%)      (5.4%)
          Total Vote                  1,637,579                    1,637,579

4.3   “Rejected” ballots - comparison with UK General Elections

      §   In the May 1997 General Election only 0.298% of the total votes were rejected and
          this figure was considered high by the Government as it was almost twice as many

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    as in the previous three General Elections (1992 – 0.1184%, 1987 – 0.1134%, 1983
    – 0.166%).

§   As in the 1979 General Election, where 0.376% of the votes were rejected, the
    numbers of rejected ballots were seen to be due to the fact that local government
    elections were held on the same day. The “Election Expenses” report of February
    1999 comments that the local government elections “led to a substantial increase in
    the number of rejections for voting for more than one candidate in 1979 and for
    blank / uncertainty in 1997.”

§   It would seem then that the number of “rejected” ballots in the GLA election
    compare unfavourably with the seemingly small numbers in General Elections.
    However when the uncertain or blank votes, which are mostly due to people simply
    choosing to not vote in a particular section of the GLA election, are removed the
    numbers compare more favourably.

§   The majority of these remaining “rejected” votes are in the Multi-Vote section.
    Since this was the first time that the London electorate had had the opportunity to
    cast multiple votes and as there was little publicity about how to cast your four
    votes it is understandable that a small proportion of people cast them incorrectly.

§   ERS comment: The term “rejected” or “spoilt” ballots clearly does not reflect
    the true nature of the majority of the “rejected” votes in the GLA and Mayoral
    election. The majority of these “rejected” ballots seem to have been blank
    ballots, where voters had chosen to either not cast a 2nd preference in the
    Mayoral race or cast a vote for a constituency candidate or party list.

§   The Electoral Reform Society therefore recommends that there should be a new
    way of defining these votes.

§   The fact that such a large number of voters did not cast their 2nd preference
    vote or vote for one section of the GLA election perhaps suggests that voters
    were still unaware of how the Supplementary Vote or Additional Member
    System work. However, these issues stray onto the second section of the GLA
    Investigative Committee’s review (i.e. Electorate engagement) and will be dealt
    with in more detail in the Society’s second submission.

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