William Eichler 14 September 2021

High turnout in May’s elections despite COVID-19

High turnout in May’s elections despite COVID-19 image

May’s elections were well-run and there was no decline in turnout despite the pandemic, new research shows.

The elections in May in England, Scotland and Wales were one of the most complex sets of polls held in recent times, with the additional challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Electoral Commission has found that there was no decline in turnout across Great Britain, compared to previous years.

The evidence shows that changes put in place by the UK’s governments, the Commission and electoral administrators helped to support and reassure voters and campaigners.

Ailsa Irvine, director of Electoral Administration and Guidance, Electoral Commission, said: ‘This year’s elections in England, Scotland and Wales took place in unique and challenging circumstances. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the electoral community across Great Britain, the polls were delivered safely and successfully.’

Despite the high turn-out, the Commission warned that the experience of these polls has highlighted concerns about the resilience and capacity of local electoral services teams across Great Britain.

Those running elections faced considerable challenges securing polling station venues, and finding and training staff to work on polling day.

The Commission also said that changes to legislation during the months leading up to the polls, while unavoidable, created additional risks and added to the existing challenge of delivering elections within an outdated and increasingly complex legal framework.

‘Our reports once again highlight evidence that our electoral system is operating under strain, and this continues to pose significant challenges for the delivery of well-run elections,’ continued Ms Irvine.

‘Further legislative changes are expected in the coming years, and these will necessarily increase the expectations and workload on already stretched teams of electoral administrators.

‘It is vital that these services are properly supported and resourced, so that voters can continue to receive the help they need to register and vote. For our part, we will work in partnership with the electoral community, including the Government and local authorities, to develop and deliver proposals to build more resilient electoral services for the future.’

Photo: Brookgardener / Shutterstock.com

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