Electoral Reform (Improved Voter Participation)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 1 November 2023.

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Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government how its proposed electoral reform bill will seek to improve voter participation within the electoral process. (S6O-02660)

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that everyone who is eligible to vote can do so. We will seek to improve the electoral process through the reform bill later in the session. The proposals are likely to include ways to increase registration among underrepresented groups, and to make voting more accessible for those who face barriers, such as people with sight loss. As always, I remain open to suggestions from others with regard to improvements.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

Votes must not only be cast; they must also count. I have met the minister about my concern that, at the 2022 council elections, the Canal ward, which is in my constituency, had the highest rate of spoiled papers in Scotland—three times the national average—as a result of voter error. The minister was receptive to my suggestion about placing on the Electoral Commission a statutory duty to carry out on-going work with communities in order to reduce the number of votes that are inadvertently spoiled. Will the minister update me on Scottish Government work in the area and say whether the proposed electoral reform bill can help to deliver that aim?

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

Mr Doris is correct that we had further discussions at that meeting. At the 2022 local elections, 1.85 per cent of ballots were rejected. Although the overall number of spoiled ballots at those elections was down slightly, I recognise that in some areas—such as the Canal ward, which Mr Doris cited—the numbers remained too high.

I agree that more must be done to ensure that no one loses their vote, so I am interested in any proposals that could help to achieve that. I am fully committed to working with Mr Doris on the issue, as work on the proposed electoral reform bill progresses. His specific suggestion that the Electoral Commission be given a more formal role will be given full consideration.