The Government has published a Command Paper (Cm 8177) today (14 September 2011) which sets out draft legislation on an electoral administration provision for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government will also be introducing two electoral administration measures that can be achieved through secondary legislation.
These provisions are intended to form part of a larger package of measures which will also include draft legislation on individual electoral registration, and the electoral administration provisions on: extending the electoral timetable for UK Parliamentary elections from 17 to 25 days, the use of emblems by jointly-nominated candidates, and the timing of polling places reviews, which have been published separately for pre-legislative scrutiny.
The further proposals address particular issues that have been raised by MPs and peers, and by electoral stakeholders, and will help to deliver more effective electoral administration, and to increase participation and trust in the electoral process.
The draft legislation removes the automatic postponement of parish and community council elections in England and Wales that currently occurs when they fall on the same day as ordinary local government elections and either a parliamentary or European parliamentary general election. This will allow more polls to be combined and facilitate participation in parish and community council elections.
The Government has also announced proposals that can be achieved through secondary legislation under existing powers that will:
- mandate 100% checking of the identifiers for postal votes at elections. Whilst current legislation requires a minimum of 20% of postal vote identifiers (signatures and date of birth on the statement returned with each postal vote) to be checked, over recent years there has been a general commitment shown at both local and national polls to check 100% and, with safeguards for instances where there is a good reason that this cannot be done, I consider it is now appropriate to formalise this position;
- extend the ‘emergency’ proxy voting facility to enable those called away on business or military service unexpectedly, and at short notice, before an election, to appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. At present, only those who fall ill once the routine deadline for proxy applications has passed are able to appoint an ‘emergency’ proxy up to 5pm on polling day.