Here’s a summary of the Elections chapter from our “Growing a stronger local democracy” report, published 30th June 2017.
A taster of our findings about Elections
Democracy isn’t just about voting, but greater participation in local elections should be one of the features of a strong and healthy local democracy. Voters are motivated by having a competitive choice of candidates and by feeling that their vote really matters. Citizens told us that it’s important to get the best people into the council, and you don’t hear enough about who your candidates are.
Standing for something
Voters want bite-sized and easy-to-access information. There is strong public demand for better information on candidates, especially about “where they stand”. We need to make sure that citizens can easily find accurate, timely, trustworthy, relevant information that is based around their needs.
Local government touches every aspect of our day-to-day lives, and yet most people do not see local elections as important. We must do more to tell the story of why local democracy matters. We need to improve people’s understanding of the local political system and its importance.
We also recognise that the practical aspects of running elections are becoming more challenging. The number and type of elections is growing, as are voter expectations for making the process easier and more flexible.
The first step
Registration is the first step on the journey to voting. It’s important for us to do as much as we can to support our young citizens in making that step as early as possible. We must also continue our outreach and engagement activities to support citizens with registering to vote.
The ticking time bomb
Elections are an area of growth. The number and complexity of elections are increasing. Changes such as Individual Electoral Administration have created extra pressures. This means that it’s challenging for councils to run elections and it’s difficult to maintain numbers on the electoral register. Without more support or better ways of doing things, the situation is unsustainable.
Votes at 16
Our young citizens told us that they feel invisible in local politics. They want to have more of a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Many of the young people we heard from are strongly in favour of votes at 16. They feel this will encourage decision-makers to consider young people more and to seek out their views. However, not all our young participants agreed with this view. What they did agree on is that young people should have a say about it, and that voting (for all ages) needs to be accompanied by democratic education.
Voting is an important part of the journey for an active citizen, and we believe in encouraging participation. In light of our evidence as a whole, we recommend that government should legislate to lower the voting age to 16.
Our recommendations about Elections
Kirklees Council should continue to support the innovative approaches we have developed to electoral outreach work as a means of ensuring that registration levels are maintained and continue to rise beyond the period of central government funding for Individual Electoral Registration (IER).
National government should amend legislation to introduce the compulsory registration of young people at the age of 16.
Kirklees Council should work collaboratively with schools to develop an optional local approach to registering young people at the age of 16.
Kirklees Council should work with the University of Huddersfield and local colleges to integrate electoral registration as part of the existing student registration process.
National government should lower the voting age to 16 and agree that such arrangements be piloted in Kirklees in order to fully evaluate the benefits and implications.
Kirklees Council should work in partnership with Democracy Club to pilot the ways in which data can be used to increase voter awareness and engagement. The learning should be used to develop a national standard that all councils should aspire to achieving.
Kirklees Council should improve access to voter information by making polling districts and polling station data available to Democracy Club, in a format that meets their GoldPlus technical standard, in addition to sharing other essential elections data in recommended formats (candidates and election results).
All schools in Kirklees should make their premises available to be used as a polling station on the day of an election.
National government should continue to explore all options (for example, online voting, early or weekend voting and registration on polling day) to increase voter registration, accessibility and turnout.
National government should consider the importance of local democracy when it is planning and legislating in respect of the timing and sequencing of elections. Local elections are important events and should be recognised as such. We do not wish to see a further dilution of local democracy.
National government and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority should plan and sequence Mayoral elections for the region in a way that does not have a negative impact on local democracy.
Our evidence about Elections
Local democracy roadshows
Public inquiry evidence
- Sharon Salvanos, Elections Manager for Kirklees Council
- John Turner, Association of Electoral Administrators
- Andrew Scallan and Town Hawthorn, Electoral Commission
- Joe Mitchell and Sym Roe, Democracy Club
- Katie Ghose, Electoral Reform Society
- Adrian Lythgo, former Kirklees Council Chief Executive
- Councillor Robert Light, Scrutiny Chair, WYCA
- Rob Vincent, former Chief Executive
- Cormac Russell, Nurture Development
- Professor Colin Copus, De Montfort University
& Chair of the Councillor Commission
- Lord Kerslake, House of Lords & President-Elect of the LGA
- Arthur Charvonia, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils
- Kirklees Council staff survey results (PDF)
- Kirklees residents e-panel survey results (PDF)
- Kirklees Councillors survey results (PDF)
Discussions and debates
- Kirklees Youth Council
- University of Huddersfield Students Union (PDF)
- Kirklees democracy debate
- Labour group (PDF)
- Conservative group (PDF)
- Liberal Democrat group (PDF)
- Green and Independent groups (PDF)