By Kevin Craigens
THERE will likely be a substantial increase in the amount of postal votes used in the upcoming Scottish elections in May says the Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMBS)
Due to the Coronavirus and the restrictions put in place by the Scottish Government it appears likely that people may look to enrol for the absent ballot to take part in this years election.
The spokesperson for EMBS, Chris Highcock said: “We anticipate that there may be an increased postal vote. Some research has been undertaken by the Electoral Commission, in August and in November last year indicated that in the current situation it was likely that there will be a substantial increase in postal voting.”
The challenges that an election during the pandemic may face are many times greater than any previous years, and having an increased postal vote may be one of those.
Angela Crawley, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East said that Local Authorities would be looking to help ease the burden on the staff who will be organising the election.
She explained: “I know that most of the local authorities who are tasked with the responsibility of conducting elections, will be looking very closely at how many people can perhaps enrol for postal voting,” the MP added. “It will be fair to say that most people who are in that vulnerable category will make sure they have a postal vote in place but I think there’s a debate whether it could viably be a 100% postal vote election and I’m not sure the infrastructure is necessarily in place for that.”
Whether it is possible to conduct a 100% postal vote was shut down by the EMBS. The spokesperson reiterated: “There are about 4.2 million voters in Scotland, if we were to maintain the same security measures on postal votes we’d have to collect the signatures and dates of birth for all of those people. To do that in the period we’ve got before May will be very difficult.”
As it stands the election is to take place on May 6 but legislation was put in place so that an Act of Parliament can postpone the election for up to six months.
Angela Crawley added that the situation would be under review by the Scottish Government. She said: “At the moment the elections are scheduled for May, however the government will have to continually review both the lockdown measures and the tier system how practically it will be manageable.”
In person voting looks likely to remain so it is up to the Local Authorities to make sure that everything is in place for the upcoming poll but is practical and safe for staff and voters at the same time.
Independent Councillor for Larkhall, Jackie Burns admitted: “The plan just now with the Chief Executive is that, assuming it will be the status quo, there would need to be sufficient social distancing, sufficient entrances and exits, they would need to make sure that people don’t mix with each other.”