Timing of elections
115. In an all-postal voting election, electors will
receive ballot papers up to three weeks before polling day, and
some will vote immediately. An unintended consequence is therefore
that candidates must start their canvassing campaigns earlier
in order to contact electors before the start of the three week
polling period. We received evidence from politicians that for
elections held in May, this means starting canvassing in February
or March. They argue that campaigning at this time of year is
harder because it is before the clocks go forward at the onset
of British Summer Time. Councillor Suzanne Fletcher told us:
"We found it extremely difficult [canvassing].
We had to start so much earlier to make sure that campaigning
was completed by the time the postal ballots came out, and there
were several difficulties with that. The first was that we were
canvassing before the clocks changed, so we could do less canvassing
because you cannot canvass in the dark."
"The other issue that we have found with the
postal ballot is that, because of the rolling registration, we
had not got the names for the March and April people going on
to the electoral roll filtered through into our system in time
for those people to be called on, so quite a number of people
did not get called on and we could not hit that point."
Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the Local
Government Association, agrees, and proposes that elections should
move to June:
"There are practical difficulties and I have
suggested and the Association has suggested that one thing which
needs to concern us for the future is the date of local elections.
Given that the timetable becomes elongated for elections the prospect
of knocking on doors in the freezing, dark March nights is somewhat
less appealing than doing it a bit later when the clocks go forward
and therefore a June election makes it more comfortable for the
canvassers and canvassed. We will be recommending that to the
Commission and we have asked the Commission to look at the date
for local elections in the light of that."
Councillor Fletcher is not convinced that moving
elections to June will help:
"I have thought about this. A lot of our deliverers
in particular, and party workers, go on holiday at the Spring
Bank Holiday and start going on their full family holidays in
June, and that is going to cause serious concerns across all the
Other political parties argue however that Councillor
Fletcher's holiday concerns could also apply to the Easter break
for May elections. They support the idea of moving elections to
Geoff Forse, Green Party: "It is not so much
a problem with June I have not heard anyone complaining about
June is not an issue."
Grant Thoms, Scottish National Party: "I think
it is more helpful to have elections held in the summer months
when evenings are lighter and people can get out and engage with
voters. I have no problem with that at all."
Mark Croucher, UK Independence Party: "Similarly
with June as a specific date we do not have a problem with the
116. We recommend that if all-postal voting is
used in future elections, the Government and Electoral Commission
consider holding elections in June so that canvassing can be done
in lighter evenings, encouraging greater engagement with the electorate.