Voters happy with arrangements

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THE COUNCIL elections which took place in May were well run with high levels of voter satisfaction, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog.

Some 89 per cent of voters were confident that the Scottish council elections on May 3 were run competently. And 98 per cent of people who voted at a polling station said they were very or fairly satisfied with the process. A similar proportion of postal voters (97 per cent) were very or fairly satisfied.

The Electoral Management Board for Scotland had a new duty at these polls to co-ordinate the administration of the elections. The report finds that 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 Electoral Management Board 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 four 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 in Scotland.

Mr McCormick continued: “While it is good to see fewer rejected votes, there are still too many. 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.”

Angus South MSP Graeme Dey commented: “As Mr McCormick notes we have come a long way since the shambles which was 2007 when Westminster was in charge of running the election. And credit to everyone who has worked to bring about the improvement.

“But I share the concerns expressed regarding the still far too high level of rejected ballot papers. Clearly there remains work to be done in getting people to fully understand the electoral systems.

“We all - politicians especially - also need to apply ourselves to encouraging greater turnout. It is concerning that fewer than 40 per cent of those eligible to vote in the council election did so and that 30 per cent of people with postal votes failed to use these.”