10 December 2020
The Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill proposes new arrangements for the Scottish Parliament Election scheduled for 6 May 2021 which may be needed to the allow effective delivery of a safe and trusted election in the context of measures taken to address the public health effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Bill allows Scottish Ministers to make regulations to hold polling over multiple days. This responds to concerns that the need for physical distancing combined with increased hygiene measures and a level of voter caution may lead to the voting process taking longer than under normal conditions, with consequent difficulties, such as potential queuing at polling stations.
This paper assesses this concern informed by the experience of recent Local Government By-Elections, mathematical modelling, the experience of the 2016 Scottish Parliament Election, an expected increase in postal voting and the approach taken by the Chief Counting Officer (CCO) at the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014.
The analysis is necessarily provisional as with all such modelling. The EMB will continue to keep this issues under review to ensure that there is robust data to support the planning for the elections.
The paper has been offered to the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans by the Convener of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland to inform his thinking on the need for multile days of poll.