The team of election observers who visited the island during this year’s General Election have largely praised the process of our elections, while making 10 recommendations.
Members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association were invited to observe the election after a motion brought by former Garff MHK Martyn Perkins.
They said the election campaign was ‘relatively competitive, and candidates campaigned freely and peacefully, despite the pandemic’. However, they did hear of ‘worrying reports of women candidates being specifically targeted in their campaign’.
As previously reported, they said that disabled access to polling stations was ‘feasible but difficult, despite efforts to make it easier’. They said: ‘For instance, the Mission observed that half of all observed polling stations were not independently accessible to voters with mobility issues.’
One of issues identified which is most likely to impact on voters is an issue found with equality of representation. The island’s constituencies are divided up to ensure there should be 7,000 people in each constituency and this should not deviate by more than 15%.
The report said: ‘For the 2021 election, two constituencies (Glenfaba and Peel, and Ramsey) had respectively 15% and 14% more registered voters than the national average of voters per constituency, while Douglas East, North and South had less voters than the national average, however within the 10- 15% limit. This is an acceptable difference, but it needs to be addressed in the next review of the boundaries, which should happen once the results of the last census are published.’
According to the report, the gov has confirmed it will appoint an election commission to explore the issue of boundaries and constituencies within the next year. However the observers have noted that this provision does not exist in law and recommended that it be made clearer to ensure a free and fair process is followed.
- The Election Commission could set and follow the guiding principles of transparency, inclusivity and equality for its work reviewing boundary delimitations. The Elections (Keys and Local Authorities) Act 2020 could be amended to include those principles in the tasks of the Electoral Commission.
- There should be an open recruitment and selection process for polling station staff to increase transparency and to ensure impartiality of the election administration.
- Training for Deputy Returning Officers should be delivered systematically to ensure a consistent implementation of legislation across all constituencies.
- Further efforts could be undertaken by the Crown and Elections Team to develop methods to encourage registration amongst any under-represented groups.
- In order to fully comply with the Equality Act, the electoral process should be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. In particular, all spaces used for the purpose of an electoral process, during the campaign and on election day, should be independently accessible.
- Authorities should consider a review to promote measures to strengthen women’s participatioin elections, in order to consolidate and improve upon the success of the number of women elected in this election, in line with international good practice.
- Training for polling station staff should be delivered systematically to ensure a consistent delivery of an election across the island. Training could include a specific focus on family voting and how to prevent it.
- Coded seals on ballot boxes should be used consistently, and should be checked by the Deputy Returning Officer before ballot boxes are opened.
- In addition to verifying the number of valid ballot papers, verifying the number of votes cast could be introduced as a separate verification stage of the counting process.
- The Elections (Keys and Local Authorities) Act 2020 should be amended to ensure the powers of the Deputy Returning Officers are fully aligned with the Human Rights Act 2001 and relevant international standards.
The full report can be read below: