The Scottish Parliament can now change the way Scottish Parliamentary elections and electoral registration is conducted.
“Scotland has led the way internationally by lowering the voting age to 16. We now seek to extend the opportunity to vote to all who are legally resident in Scotland. It seems only fair that those who have the right to live here, whether from EU countries or elsewhere, have the right to vote. ” Joe FitzPatrick , Minister for Parliamentary Business in the Scottish Government
A consultation paper has been published which hopes to get responses from a wide range of people.
You can access it here: Consultation on Electoral Reform
- How Often Elections Should be Held
- Who Runs Elections and How They Are Run
- Who Can Register and Vote
- Accessibility of Voting and Elected Office
Avoiding election date clashes
The dates for elections to local authorities and the Scottish Parliament have recently been moved due to clashes with other elections. The length of time between elections is under consideration.
Running the Election
It is proposed that the Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB) extends its role to include running elections to the Scottish Parliament. In May 2012 the EMB had a statutory role as provider of practitioner advice for the elections to local government.
” the Convener of the EMB would be given the power to give directions to Returning Officers and Electoral Registration Officers about how they carry out their functions in relation to Scottish Parliament elections.”
This power already exists for local elections.
Currently the Returning Officer is appointed on a personal basis and is usually the Chief Executive of the Local Authority. They can be held personally responsible for the conduct of elections and are paid a remuneration because of this. The consultation questions whether this payment should continue and how the Returning Officer should be appointed.
In local elections a candidate’s home address appears on the ballot paper. This does not happen in national elections and concern has been expressed about the personal safety of candidates. The consultation would also like your views on how candidates are listed on the ballot paper which currently is alphabetically by surname.
“It is argued that being further down the paper puts candidates at an immediate disadvantage.”
The counting of votes in local elections in Scotland has been done electronically since 2007. Electronic voting is used in various forms in several countries but most extensively in Estonia. The electorate of Estonia can vote via the internet from anywhere in the world. It includes a log in system and a pre-voting period when voters can change how they voted. There are several options proposed for piloting a system that would work in Scotland.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland is responsible for reviewing council boundaries and electoral arrangements, the constituencies and regions of the Scottish Parliament and making recommendations to Scottish Ministers.
The consultation wishes to know if there should be rolling reviews within local authorities. At the present time these boundaries are all reviewed at the same time every 8 – 12 years. It is not proposed to change the boundaries or go to a rolling review system of the Scottish Parliamentary boundaries as these are linked to local authority boundaries.
“The Scottish Parliament electoral system requires that there should be 73 constituencies for the election of constituency MSPs and 8 regions for the election of 56 regional MSPs, with each region comprising a number of whole constituencies.”
Scottish Ministers have the power to implement the recommendations of the Commission, to amend them or not to implement them at all. This is particularly relevant to the Islands Bill where it is proposed that there are changes made to the multi – member wards system.
Who can vote in Scottish elections?
Someone who lives in Scotland can vote in Scottish Parliament and in local government elections if they are over 16 years old and are:
- a British citizen
- a qualifying Commonwealth citizen
- a citizen of the Irish Republic or European Union
The extension of the franchise is being considered. Also included is more anonymity in those registered to vote.
“Whilst access to the full electoral register is restricted, it is still available for public inspection, often in libraries or other public buildings in the local community. The register lists everyone who is registered to vote in the local area and public access allows individuals to question any entries on the register. However, in some cases, the availability of an individual’s name and address could put them in danger and therefore there is the option of anonymous registration available to those who can demonstrate that they are at risk.”
Improvements are suggested on extending opportunities for those who wish to be candidates to be able to do so and to improve access at polling stations for those with a disability.
The consultation closes on the 12th March 2018. To take part you can go online Consultation on Electoral Reform