Fears of ballot chaos as election dates clash

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There were fears of a repeat of the 2007 Holyrood election fiasco as it was announced on the BBC that a referendum on UK electoral reform is to be held on the same day as next year’s Scottish elections.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is due to announce that the referendum on the alternative voting system will be held on 5 May 2011.


There were fears of a repeat of the 2007 Holyrood election fiasco as it was announced on the BBC that a referendum on UK electoral reform is to be held on the same day as next year’s Scottish elections.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is due to announce that the referendum on the alternative voting system will be held on 5 May 2011.

The AV system requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference with the candidate finishing last in each round being eliminated and having his/her votes distributed in order of preference amongst the others until one candidate achieves over 50%.

However, the decision to hold such a referendum on the day of the Holyrood elections will cause anger and dismay in Scotland after the fiasco of the 2007 Scottish election.  In that election voter confusion over ballot papers and problems with electronic counting machines led to 146,000 votes being discarded.

A subsequent inquiry led by Ron Gould, the former assistant chief electoral officer of Canada, recommended that elections should be held on separate days and that future elections should consider the voter above all else.

Mr Gould also accused the Scotland Office and the then Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Government of being influenced by “partisan political interests”.

Labour’s Des Browne who was Scottish Secretary at the time was forced to apologise for the shambles as was Labour’s election coordinator Douglas Alexander.

This announcement of a combined poll date is also likely to lead to confusion over the broadcast air time allocated to political parties as a UK wide referendum campaign takes place at precisely the same time as a Scottish election campaign.

The recent general election saw the SNP and their Welsh counterparts Plaid Cymru blocked from TV screens as the London based parties dominated the airwaves.

With the Welsh assembly elections and the English local council elections scheduled for the same day this announcement is all the more bewildering.

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