Observing elections to improve democracy
A team of 3 observers, registered with the UK’s Electoral Commission, made 30 separate observations in 30 different polling stations across the Witney parliamentary constituency. This constituted approximately a third of the polling stations in the area.
Each observation was conducted into pairs to allow for objective observation and they then agreed their opinions of the electoral process before submitting data to the central team. The survey was conducted online so data was collected, and could be checked, live.
The observations generally took between twenty and thirty minutes per polling station as the observers were asked to ensure that they attempted to see the entire process, which included staff greeting electors on arrival at the polling station.
Each team of observers was contacted throughout the day by the central team to ensure that observation was as uniform as possible.
The organisation of polling stations was well run across the council area, voters could clearly see how to access voting and staff were trained to manage the process.
However, the significant number of observations of so-called ‘family voting’, which is considered an ‘unacceptable practice’ in elections should be considered a matter of statistical significance as this constitutes over 1 in 5 polling stations across the constituency.
This was mainly family members colluding over their voting choices, elderly voters being ‘assisted’ with their voting intentions and family members overlooking another’s polling booth to observe how they cast their vote.
The team also identified, because of the highly contested nature of the election, a great deal of activity at polling stations. At times this involved political party representatives requesting voters’ polling numbers before entering the polling stations which is outside the guidelines promoted by the Electoral Commission.
Click the link below for the Final Report from the parliamentary by-election below.