AV referendum: all households to be sent a booklet explaining the vote

Details of how the Electoral Commission proposes to administer next May’s referendum on the voting system (provided it passes Parliament) have emerged in a series of circulars issued by the Commission last week.

Some of the details are likely to gain widespread welcome, including the extra anti-fraud step of requiring that 100% of postal votes are given extra security checks against original records (the law only requires a minimum of 20% and although many elections see 100% checking, not all do). Following the problems with long queues at over-sized or under-staffed polling stations at the general election, the Electoral Commission is also strongly encouraging a maximum of 2,500 electors per polling station and is also funding sensible staffing levels.

The referendum count will be carried out in the usual two stages for UK elections – a verification stage to check the number of ballot papers, which will have to be completed by 1pm on the Friday, with the counting of votes then starting at 4pm. The three hour gap is to allow councils, where there are also other elections being held at the same time, to complete those other counts before starting the referendum count if they wish.

The Electoral Commission is intending to distribute a booklet to all households with information about the referendum, including what first past the post and the alternative vote are, what happens in the event of a yes or no vote and the different ways of voting in the referendum (in person, by post or by proxy).

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