On 8 July, an important cross-party Lords Select Committee, of which Alistair Lexden was a member, published a major report on the electoral system, following a year’s study of its strengths and weaknesses.
Under legislation passed in 2013 after close scrutiny in the Lords, in which Alistair Lexden took part, everyone of voting age was required for the first time to register individually instead of going on a form completed by ‘the head of household’. Other improvements to the conduct of the elections were also introduced. The Lords Committee, set up last year, was given the task of reviewing the situation seven years on.
The Committee’s report (attached) is long and detailed. It makes many recommendations including:
- action to clamp down on electoral fraud about which many people are worried, calling on the government to “review the free availability of postal voting on demand.”
- reform of the law to make it easier and less expensive for those who have evidence of fraud to bring cases in the courts.
- action to get ballot papers and other material more swiftly to British citizens living abroad who are eligible to vote, particularly since the government is pledged to remove the current 15-year limit on their right to vote (a change for which Alistair Lexden has long campaigned).
- careful preparation for the imminent introduction of the requirement that voters bring proof of identity to polling stations.
- more resources for local authorities to help them bring on to the electoral registers the millions who are at present missing from them, and so unable to vote.
- since “the best place to promote registration is in schools, Electoral Registration Officers must be given greater guidance, funding and support to enable them to reach students while they are at school” in preparation for the time when they reach voting age at 18.
The report, which should be of great use to electoral experts as well as to the Government, will be debated in the Lords in due course.