I have been working with Cllrs Jacqueline McLaren and Allan Gow to tackle the issue of voter education and spoiled ballot papers.

The highest percentage of (unintended) spoiled papers at the last council elections was in Canal Ward, within our constituency. Three times the national average.

I have raised the matter in Parliament and have met with the Minister and the Electoral Commission. The Scottish Elections (Representation & Reform) Bill was published in January 2024 and I hope to amend it to ensure
there is a statutory obligation on the Commission to undertake a meaningful voter education strategy.

 


 

02 May 2024

I was able to raise the issue of making sure every vote couts at the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. You can watch the video below, or read the transcript.

 

Minister, as you know, I have raised in Parliament—and I have met you to talk about—concerns over voter education and the parts of the country in which there is a prevalence of spoiled papers. I mention specifically the Canal ward in my constituency. I have been working with councillors Allan Gow and Jacqueline McLaren because, at the most recent council elections, that ward had the highest number of spoiled papers in Scotland, at three times the national average. The votes were accidentally spoiled by multiple voting for two or three candidates from the same party.

I am keen for the Electoral Commission to step forward not just when there is an election but all year round. I put it to you that the bill could be a vehicle for putting some form of statutory duty on the Electoral Commission to do some of that voter education, targeted locally. Might the bill remain a vehicle for achieving some of those ambitions?

George Adam

Come and visit, minister.

George Adam

I am happy to look at that idea and work with you on it, because I have been struck by how, over the months, you have articulated how we can deal with the issue. I would be interested in working with you, perhaps using the bill as a vehicle for you to see what you can do about your aims, and I look towards stage 2 for that. I am also happy for my officials to work with you on that.

Bob Doris

Convener, I would like to clarify something. In the bill, I noticed part 5 on increased democratic engagement and part 8 on the Electoral Commission. At this stage, has the Government thought about where an amendment might best sit? Clearly, away from this committee, we will work diligently to agree a suitable amendment, but do you have any initial thoughts?

George Adam

I will bring in Iain Hockenhull.

Iain Hockenhull

Our parliamentary draftspeople colleagues get a bit twitchy if we start predicting where they will put things, but I hope that it could be accommodated quite straightforwardly.

Bob Doris

That is fine.

George Adam

You do surprise me, Mr Doris.

Bob Doris

Previously, the minister’s view was that it was too complex, that the risks outweighed the benefits and that it was not that clear. I understand that the committee has started to hear evidence that some of those barriers might be less of an issue now, and that the concerns of some groups are being assuaged somewhat. What is the minister’s current thinking on that?

George Adam

I declare an interest, because my surname is Adam and my sister is a Councillor Adam in Renfrewshire Council.

The point that I made was that there tend to be a lot more candidates in a council election than there are in any other election. For example, in Renfrewshire the last time, one ward in particular had a large number of candidates and the software had difficulty with that. That was the slowest count and it was the last result called because of the complexity of the software having to take in the large number of candidates.

There is also another practical issue. We are working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland to ensure that voting is more accessible to people with a visual impairment or who are blind, so that they can vote more easily. One of the things that we are looking at is a card that goes over the voting sheet. That idea came from the members of one of the RNIB’s working groups and we have worked with the RNIB and developed it further. That would be a simple solution to an issue for those people, but a randomised ballot would again make it inaccessible to them and we would have to look at another way of making it work.

Those are just some of the examples that I have. At this stage, I am not convinced of the idea of a randomised ballot.

Bob Doris
George Adam
Iain Hockenhull

Yes.

George Adam

It is always good when your officials say yes.

 


 

27 June 2024

Canal ward - which covers Possil and Milton, had the highest level of spoilt ballot papers in the Local Authority elections in 2022. It also has one of the lowest turnouts.

I am keen to see the Electoral Commission work with communities to turn this around. I raised in the Scottish Parliament today, and together with Councillor Jacqueline McLaren and Councillor Allan Gow, I am determined to see a law change to ensure that the Commission are empowered to resolve these issues.

You can see my partcipation in the debate below, and read more about my work in this matter at https://bob-doris.scot/campaigns/making-sure-every-vote-counts

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