For several years, the idea of letting people vote in person ahead of polling day (e.g. at the Town Hall or in a local shopping centre) was tested out in a range of different British elections. Lots of time and money went on the tests, all of which came up with the same answer: it makes almost no difference to turnout, and the money that it takes up could have gone on other measures which would have been just as good, if not better, at raising turnout (e.g. general publicity campaigns reminding pepole to vote).
The pilots themselves went on long past the point at which they were revealing anything useful. Indeed, I’ve sat in quite a few meeting with civil servants of the years where I asked questions along the lines of, “What sort of result would this year’s pilots have to show for you to decide to drop the idea?”
Eventually, the idea of testing this was dropped and the idea of introducing early voting as a permanent feature of our elections quietly mothballed.
So far, so good – more pilots were run than necessary in my view, but the basic idea, “here’s an idea, let’s test it and then make a decision based on the evidence” was a good one.
Unfortunately, now enter stage left Labour MP Linda Riordan, who writes on Labour List:
The Government has introduced some welcome measures in this area. However, there is so much more that could be done.
… and then goes on to praise the idea of early voting, based on the US Presidential election.
Well, ok – but what about the evidence that we’ve gathered here in the UK? Doesn’t get a mention in her piece. She talks about the US, but ignores completely the UK trials and their outcome. And she also seems to have fallen for the myth that turnout soared in the US this time, which of course it didn’t.
But I do wonder why the Government, Electoral Commission, local councils and political parties spent lots of money, time and effort on tests of early voting, when none of that seems to matter at all to Linda Riordan?