New figures published today by the Electoral Commission show that over a third of local councils are failing to meet the standards laid down to ensure the integrity of the electoral register and postal voting process.
Today’s figures are the first time the Electoral Commission has published detailed records of how Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) across Great Britain are performing against recently introduced performance standards. The ten standards cover a wide range of their work, including the completeness and accuracy of the electoral register, publicising the registration process to the public and overall planning and organisation.
Although in many areas the 404 EROs do well at meeting or exceeding the standards, 37% fail to meet the standard for ensuring the integrity of the electoral registration and postal voting systems and 66% fail to meet the standard for raising public awareness about electoral registration.
Some councils even admitted that they do not keep electoral registration forms for the life of the electoral register and/or do not keep postal and proxy vote application forms until the application is canceled or expires. This means that if an allegation of electoral corruption is subsequently made, key evidence will not be available because it has been binned. This binning of potential evidence happens despite original application forms having been a key source of forensic evidence in several cases in recent years.
Although some councils failed the integrity standard overall only because they have not documented their procedures properly, this failure to keep evidence that may be required by a police investigation is very worrying.
Complaints about the performances of EROs are nothing new, and by bringing to light both the good and the bad the standards should help improve the registration system in the future. But welcome as the standards are, they also highlight how much work there is to be done in some areas.