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Local elections are taking place on May 6

Majority of election officials concerned about low voter turnout, study shows

A majority of election administrators are concerned about low voter turnout, particularly in contests for Police and Crime Commissioners, a study shows.

The research also shows electoral services staff report high levels of public confidence in elections, but believe introducing the need for voters to show ID would help tackle voter concerns about fraud.

Just 7 per cent of returning officers’ staff who took part in the University of Exeter study said impersonation of others in the polling station or other forms of electoral fraud were an issue, and 14 per cent said postal vote fraud was a problem.

A total of 82 per cent of electoral returning officers’ staff questioned said low voter turnout was a problem, 77 per cent said they were worried about inadequate regulation of social media, and 78 per cent about media bias

60 per cent of those questioned said the introduction of mandatory voter ID in polling stations would reduce public concerns about fraud. Just 20 per cent said members of the public believed there were high levels of election fraud.

The survey of 121 electoral administrators was carried out in summer 2020. They were presented with a long list of different problems, and given the opportunity to rank their answer from: “not a problem at-all”, “not a very big problem” “a fairly big problem”, “a very big problem”. Researchers then combined the percentage that answered “a fairly big problem” or “a very big problem”.

Greg Stride, who led the study, said: “The survey shows most administrators believe there are high levels of public confidence in elections but many also believe voter ID could improve this further. It is striking that so few electoral officers thought impersonation was a problem, as this is the main type of fraud voter ID would seek to eliminate.”

A quarter of elections staff who took part in the research said foreign influence on UK elections was an issue, and a third were concerned about intimidation of candidates and intimidation or undue influence on voters.

A total of 45 per cent of elections staff questioned were worried about barriers to participation in voting for minority groups, and half were worried about low public confidence in elections. Half were concerned about inadequate regulation of campaign funding. Almost three quarters said they were worried about the statutory timetable they had to follow to deliver elections, and election law.

A total of 79 per cent said they thought electoral services departments were insufficiently funded, and 90 per cent said the challenges of organising snap elections was an issue.

Around 80 per cent of electoral administrators questioned said voting by post and voting in polling stations were safe, and around 77 per cent said voting by postal proxy or proxy was safe. Around 50 per cent said campaigners’ use of the electoral register was safe.

Date: 26 April 2021

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