Improving public engagement in Community Council elections

The Scottish Government’s aim to “support and empower the engagement of the Scottish people in their own elections” is most welcome. However Local Authorities can still deny the electorate access to Postal or Proxy Voting at Community Council elections through their ‘Schemes of Establishment’.

Currently this only occurs with a minority of LAs as most do offer Postal Voting. This is discrimination against those with mobility issues, as well as people who work away from home. Lack of Postal or Proxy voting are “barriers to voter empowerment”.

Peoples access to democracy should NOT be a Postcode Lottery.

The Scottish Government is committed to increasing participation in elections both in terms of voter turnout and encouraging citizens to stand for election. Democratic participation challenges the inequalities of power and influence that exist in society. We need an electoral system that supports and empowers the engagement of the Scottish people in their own elections. Many organisations, including the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Management Board, political parties and local authorities have important roles to play in realising this aim of full engagement. The Scottish Government and Parliament have a specific role to play to ensure that electoral law supports increased participation and removes barriers to voter empowerment.

Above: Consultation Paper on Electoral Reform by the Scottish Government.  (Introduction, page 3, December 2017).

Below: Latest proposed draft of the Scheme for the establishment of Community Councils in Dumfries and Galloway. (2018).

7.6.3 Voting at elections: Voting shall be by ballot box at a designated polling place. Ballot papers shall be laid out in a style approved by DGC. There will be no provision for postal or proxy voting. The hours of polling, shall be determined for each Community Council area by the Returning Officer, in consultation with the Community Council.

These new guidelines, intended for National and Local Authority elections, should also be applied to Community Council elections. To do otherwise creates a barrier to local democratic engagement.

It’s time to stop discrimination against Community Councils and local democracy.

 

Andi Holmes       February 2018

Andi Holmes

Andi Holmes

Andi is a member of SRA's Regional Network for South West Scotland and a member of the Local Democracy Working Group

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