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Solace blog

22nd January 2016

Reflections on the Annual Solace Elections Conference

The Annual Solace Elections Conference yesterday helped shape the agenda for elections and democracy for the forthcoming year and reinforced the importance of the existing agenda. There was a strong turnout and robust contributions from speakers and from the floor of the conference.

Three key themes emerged:

The reform agenda: There remains a driving agenda for change and improvement, which needs to be at the forefront of thinking and action amongst the whole of the electoral community. The case for modernising the voting and counting processes using digital means is overwhelming. In Scotland, e-counting is already established, but not yet in England and Wales. Detailed consideration of the future opportunities for e-voting must be on our agenda to offer modern and accessible opportunities to voters and to help us manage the process in new and more efficient ways.

The consolidation agenda: There is an urgent need to consolidate the introduction of IER by making better use of the available technology and reducing the unnecessary and wasteful paper chase. The repeated use of canvassing and reminder-upon-reminder letters has to be questioned in terms of its effectiveness and use of resources. Poor process built on top of technology does. Or make for a better system.

The immediate pressures agenda: Returning Officers and their staff need to take up the opportunities to work more collaboratively with the rest of the Council’s resources and to work more effectively across Councils if we are to successfully manage risks and resource challenges. Solace is continuing to encourage regional electoral boards to be formed and to drive opportunities to create more consistency in the quality of electoral processes and to share resources and best practice.

Actions arise, as these three agendas improve our call for resources and guidance from Government and the Commission, commensurate with the challenges we face in executing our responsibilities.

By Dr. Dave Smith, Solace Spokesperson, Elections and Democratic Renewal