Performance standards for Returning Officers consultation opens

The Electoral Commission is currently consulting on its performance standards for Returning Officers in Great Britain. Here’s my response (with the full consultation document embedded below).

Dear Ross Clayton,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft Returning Officer performance standards.

As you rightly identify (p.6), one of the key principles for each election should be participation: “it should be straightforward for people to participate in our elections, whether campaigning or voting”.

However, the campaigning aspect of this is only partially followed up in the standards themselves. Performance Standard 2c covers some aspects of this, and the inclusion of informal nomination checking is particularly welcome. However, it misses out the timely provision of electoral register and absent voter data to candidates and agents. A common problem at the moment, for example, is for the final additions to the absent voter list before polling day to be provided to agents only several days later, which then leaves very little time for agents and candidates to make use of such data. Prompt provision of electoral register data and absent voter data is essential for the principle of straightforward participation to be meaningful. This could be met by adding a requirement to have target response times for dealing with requests for such data and recording the proportion of requests which were met within the target time.

In addition, the people aspect of the participation principle is not followed through in Performance Standard 2a, Polling Station set-up. This, rightly, requires Returning Officers to consider accessibility issues when choosing polling station locations. However, it does not require Returning Officers to consider the impact on turnout of the distances people have to travel to vote. There is growing evidence that the further people have to travel to vote, the lower turnout is (particularly outside of general elections); for example see

Performance Standard 2a would therefore better meet the underlying principles for the standards if it required Returning Officers to review turnout data and consider whether to make any changes to polling station numbers and locations.

Finally, on a slightly different point and given that 100% checking of postal voting identifiers is sometimes a cause of controversy, I would like to add my support to your proposed inclusion of this in the performance standards.


Mark Pack
Former member, Electoral Commission Political Parties Panel and co-author, “The General Election Agents’ Manual”

Electoral Commission: Consultation on Performance Standards for Returning Officers

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Election law.

One Comment

  • John Heyworth 15th Sep '11 - 11:44am

    Mark, Totally agree with most of your letters content….However I DO NOT believe the absent voters register should be made available to any political party either before or after the election. Living in an area where postal vote fraud and police complaints seem to occur at every election, i feel that if political parties had NO access to this data then the possibility of such corrupt practices would be greatly reduced. Yes, it will inconvenience campaigning by all partys but this is a small price to pay for greater faith in the democratic system.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Michael BG
    Peter Davies, Replacing the Income Tax Personal Allowance and NI threshold with a UBI of the same value means that anyone earning more than £12,570 will not...
  • Michael BG
    Jenny Barnes, The UK economy declined by 0.1% in March 2022. I don’t think this is an ‘economy running hot’. The UK unemployment rate is 3.7% as you sa...
  • Joe Bourke
    Peter, increased work allowances are a common call by both the JRF ...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    This is good from Ed , but this is very little. Ofgem need to be overhauled. The lift of this cap makes no sense. If the wholsale price has changed, tough, t...
  • Charles Smith
    The decision by Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership is historic for many reasons. For Sweden, it means ending two centuries of military non-alignment. A...