“An election could happen at any time – electoral law needs to be urgently updated”

Owl says: recalling the mess EDDC’s CEO made of past elections (where he “lost” 6,000 voters), and when he was later forced to explain himself (not all that well) to a parliamentary committee:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/14/official-transcript-of-eddc-ceo-evidence-to-parliamentary-committee-on-voter-engagement/

this is LONG overdue!

“Last week, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee published its response to the government’s Online Harms White Paper, where it called for urgent legislation to safeguard future elections. Echoing the ERS’s calls, the committee noted that ‘[w]ere an election or referendum to take place later this year, campaigns would be fought using electoral law that is wholly inadequate for the digital age.’

The government’s long-awaited white paper on online harms was published in April 2019 and offered a package of measures to tackle online harms (e.g. cyberbullying and disinformation) and to regulate internet companies who do not adequately protect their users. This would be achieved by establishing a new statutory duty of care towards users, which would make tech companies responsible for users’ safety online and tackle harm caused by content or activity on their services. Compliance with this duty would be overseen by a new independent regulator. Both the duty of care requirement and the establishment of a regulator were proposals included in the DCMS committee’s Final Report on Disinformation and ‘fake news’.

While it welcomed the (limited) measures proposed to tackle disinformation, in its response the DCMS committee said it was ‘disappointed’ with the ‘scant focus’ the white paper paid to the urgent changes that are needed around electoral interference and online political advertising.

In particular, the committee said that the measures included in the white paper to tackle digital campaigning were limited and did not address the committee’s recommendations on creating a category for digital spending on campaigns (currently parties and campaigners do not need to provide a breakdown of online spend) and a searchable public repository where information on political advertising material would be available.

The committee also lamented the fact that white paper did not acknowledge the risks of foreign investments in elections or the role and power of unpaid campaigns and Facebook groups in influencing elections and referendums. Regarding the first point, the committee will be taking further evidence this month on how anti-money laundering regulations may be adapted to digital campaigning, particularly given the use of online payment systems such as PayPal.

Despite the government’s commitment to extending imprints (disclosures stating who paid for and promoted campaign material) to online election material, the committee voiced concern about ‘how long it may take in practice for digital imprints to be enshrined in legislation’ given the government’s lack of urgency in addressing the committee’s other proposals.

The committee is therefore calling for ‘urgent legislation’ to be brought forward at once so as to bring electoral law in line with digital campaigning techniques, particularly with regards to digital imprints, and has asked the government to respond by 24 July with a commitment on this.

Most of the calls reiterated by the DCMS committee in their report on the online harms white paper have also been made by the ERS and our contributors in our report on online campaign regulation, Reining in the Political ‘Wild West’: Campaign Rules for the 21st Century, namely:

  • Extending the imprint requirement to online campaign materials and improving how campaigners report funding and spending.
  • Creating a single online database of political adverts, which would be publicly available and easily searchable.
  • Ensuring that those charged with enforcing the rules have sufficient enforcement powers and resources that act as a meaningful deterrent against wrongdoing.
  • Establishing a statutory code of practice for political parties and campaignersaround online campaigning and the use of personal data.
  • Comprehensively reviewing our electoral law, ensuring that it is updated and future-proofed for the digital age.

Protecting the integrity of our elections and referendums is vital to ensuring public confidence in our democratic processes, and we welcome the DCMS committee’s calls for updating our outdated campaign rules. We hope the government will tackle this unregulated online Wild West with the urgency it deserves.”

An election could happen at any time – electoral law needs to be urgently updated

Has our Electoral Officer messed up again?

EDW comment:

I’d like to thank Mark Williams but I cannot. As we will be away for the European elections we applied for a postal vote. We had a letter on Tuesday from MW graciously allowing us our democratic right and saying that voting papers will follow.. Today’s post was the last opportunity but no voting papers have arrived. Thus we have been deprived of our vote. It seems that in his case past performance is a guide to the future! I wonder who will blame this time?”

Why are EDDC district council results SO slow!

Started at 10 am, Four results by 11.30 am, nothing since … at this rate 6pm finish is looking optimistic …

Mark Williams, CEO and Returning Officer, is paid extra to supervise results. We don’t know how much as election officers and how they spend their allocated budgets are not subject to Freedom of Information requests.

But we do know, the more counters the quicker the results … the fewer counters more left in an EDDC account that can be used for anything else.

To vote in European elections you must register by 7 May 2019

There are two main elections that are being held in East Devon next month. District, town and parish elections are on Thursday 2 May, and a European Parliamentary election is on Thursday 23 May.

Poll cards for the district, town and parish elections have now been sent out to registered voters in the district who are reminded to carefully check where their polling station is.

East Devon District Council is also preparing for the European Parliamentary election following the delay to Britain leaving the European Union. The election will take place unless Britain leaves the EU before.

These elections are conducted by the regional returning officer in Bournemouth with East Devon District Council producing poll cards and postal votes, and running the polling stations, and a local count which will take place on Sunday, 26 May.

The deadline to register to vote for the European elections is Tuesday 7 May and the quickest way to register is by using the government registration website – it takes just five minutes.

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

All you will need to complete the online process is your National Insurance number.

Please remember that you must re-register to vote if you have changed your address, your name or nationality. People only need to register once – they do not need to register separately for every election.

If you want to check if you are registered to vote or you would like to register by completing a paper form, then please contact the East Devon Electoral Services Helpline on 01395 571529 or email electoralservices@eastdevon.gov.uk

If you’re a citizen of a European Union country (other than the UK, Republic of Ireland, Malta and Cyprus), you can either vote in European Parliamentary elections in the UK or in your home country. You cannot vote twice. To vote in the UK, you need to be registered to vote and complete a form stating that you wish to vote in the UK and not in your home country. You can download the EU citizen European Parliament voter registration form at the Your Vote Matters website.

After completing the form, you need to send it to East Devon District Council’s Electoral Services team at Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ. It must be received by Tuesday 7 May.

East Devon voters wanting a postal vote for the European election must apply by 5pm on Wednesday, 8 May. To apply, please use the form available at the government postal voting application page.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote

If you wish to cancel or amend your existing postal vote, the team must be told about this in writing no later than 5pm on Wednesday, 8 May.

Applications to appoint a proxy must be received by the council’s Electoral Services team by 5pm on Wednesday, 15 May. Proxy voters will be required to attend your polling station to vote on your behalf. Application forms can be found on the Your Vote Matters proxy vote application page.”

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/news/2019/04/east-devon-preparing-for-two-main-elections-next-month-the-district-town-and-parish-elections-on-thursday-2-may-and-the-european-parliamentary-elections-on-thursday-23-may/

EDDC lays down the law on Ian Thomas defection

“… Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s chief executive, said: “This is a personal decision taken by councillor Thomas. From a returning officer perspective the election for the Trinity ward will continue.

“Cllr Thomas has been validly nominated to stand in the Trinity Ward and the ballot papers will show that he is standing as a Conservative candidate as this was the basis on which he was nominated. The change in circumstances does not countermand the election process and it will go ahead on May 2.

“From a chief executive perspective, cllr Thomas is the Leader of the Council and remains as such until the circumstances set out in Article 6.03 of the Council’s Constitution occur. These are that either cllr Thomas resigns as leader; is suspended from being a councillor; is no longer a councillor; is removed by resolution of the council; or another leader is elected at the Annual Council Meeting on the May 22.”

https://honiton.nub.news/n/east-devon-council-leader-resigns-party-days-before-election