Digital Register for Swindon Borough Council
Xpress partnered with Swindon Borough Council to deliver the first ever fully digital register to be used in UK elections.
We’re delighted to announce that, due to the success of this project, Xpress and Swindon Council were shortlisted as finalists for the national Local Government Chronicle Awards 2019, where the project was Highly Commended in the ‘Driving Efficiency through Technology’ category, sponsored by EY. Congratulations to our brilliant team, and to our colleagues at Swindon!
Our technical solution, based on our successful mobile canvasser product, took an archaic, paper based system to a product fit for the digital age. The technology developed has the capacity to revolutionise the voting experience for voters and tackle ever declining voter turnout.
Swindon Borough Council was one of five local authorities to participate in the Electoral Commission’s voter identification pilot scheme in May 2018. The Swindon pilot required voters to produce their poll card in order to meet the requirement to vote. Voters who did not bring their poll card could show a passport, photo card driving license, Northern Ireland Electoral Identity Card, Biometric Immigration Document or EEA Identity Card. Another elector registered at the same polling station (with the required ID) could also attest to the identity of an elector unable to show ID (each elector could attest for up to two other electors).
Our Solution – Digital Register
In order to conduct this pilot, Swindon Borough Council’s Electoral Services team partnered with us, as the UK’s leading provider of election management software, to deliver a digital register in polling stations. The project team had only a short time window of 4 months to design, build, user test, train staff and make sure voters knew what was required of them.
This was the first fully digital electoral register to be used in polling stations in the UK, replacing the traditional paper polling station register, absent vote and proxy voter lists. Poll cards featured a QR code which allowed polling station staff to quickly find electors or proxies by scanning their poll card, or by searching for their name or address. Using the digital register provided instant information, increasing the speed and efficiency of the process, which allowed electors to be processed more quickly, reducing queues and waiting times at polling stations. The digital register also significantly reduced paper use, contributing to Swindon’s wider aim to move from handling 15m paper documents a year to just one million by 2021.
Digital Register – Key Features:
- The digital register replaces the paper polling station register, absent vote and proxy voter lists.
- Intuitive technology allows polling station staff to quickly find electors or proxies by using their poll card or searching for their name or address.
- It only contains the register for the specific polling station where it is used.
- It records electors who have voted.
- It guides staff through the process of issuing ballot papers and ensures those electors not eligible to vote in the election are not issued a ballot paper.
- It highlights those electors not eligible to vote with the following information;
– Postal voter (A)
– Overseas (F)
– Too young (date they can vote from)
- It accommodates election day clerical changes and emergency proxies
- It provides 360 degree vision of election day in real time
- It produces a marked copy of the electoral register in digital format at the close of poll
- It enables electoral teams to demonstrate auditable integrity and performance of the actions of the polling staff
- Increased turnout, fewest people turned away
Of the five pilot areas, Swindon had the fewest people turned away from the polling station and the biggest increase in turnout compared to the other pilot authorities. Turnout in 2018 was higher (39%) than the 34% recorded at the last comparable elections (2016 local government elections). However, using the digital register developed by Xpress also delivered significant additional benefits.
- Easy to use & access instant information
Using the digital register provided instant information, increasing the speed and efficiency of the process, which allowed electors to be processed more quickly, reducing queues and waiting times at polling stations. 86% of polling station staff surveyed who had worked at a previous election in Swindon said they felt this election was either easier (48%) or about the same (38%) as previous years. Since this was the first use both of the voter ID requirement and the digital register, that is a remarkably high figure.
- Reduced staffing requirement
While Swindon had not deployed additional staff in polling stations for the pilot, feedback from the Returning Officer and Electoral Services team after polling day concluded that ‘with the process for scanning poll cards working well, as it was, it would have been possible to manage with fewer staff’. As this was the first use of the technology, future deployments may well allow for further reductions in staffing requirements.
- Valuable real-time information
The digital register provided 360 degree vision of election day in real time – something that has never been done before. This valuable real-time information offers much needed insight and meaningful statistics for use by The Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Office to evaluate the pilot scheme and inform any future UK legislation. In its evaluation of the pilot scheme in Swindon, The Electoral Commission stated:
“The IT used in polling stations on 3 May worked well. There were very few problems reported by staff and this agrees with our observations in Swindon on polling day. The Returning Officer told us that, as a result of the IT system, the additional information available throughout polling day was useful, for example on levels of turnout at individual polling stations. This would be an even more helpful facility for electoral staff at higher turnout polls where it could be used to allocate resources as needed on polling day.”
- Reduced paper use
The digital register also significantly reduced paper use, saving the printing of 8000 documents and contributing to Swindon’s wider aim to move from handling 15m paper documents a year to just one million by 2021. The Council’s programme is intended to transform Council services to improve efficiency, as well as saving £30m, and has already won recognition at this year’s Public Sector Paperless Awards. Naturally, digitisation is a key part of this programme.
IN THREE WEEKS TIME the polls open for the local elections (03 May). Swindon is taking part in a Government pilot to trial using ID to vote. You’ll need your poll card as a form of ID to vote at a polling station. Find out more: https://t.co/zCvsIqAg0V #VoterIDSwindon pic.twitter.com/zuMcAJYw7l
— Swindon Borough Council (@SwindonCouncil) April 12, 2018
This project was an outstanding example of a Local Council working with a private sector partner to drive efficiency through technology. It benefited from specialist knowledge and expertise on both sides, with Swindon’s highly-experienced Electoral Services team working closely with the Xpress team to ensure the IT had the functionality and level of security needed for the effective running of the poll.
LGC Awards Recognition
We’re delighted that this innovative project was recognised by the 2019 LGC Awards, being Highly Commended in the ‘Driving Efficiency through Technology’ category, sponsored by EY. The results were announced on Wednesday 13 March 2019 at the LGC Awards 2019 ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House, where we joined more than 1,100 local authority professionals in celebrating excellence in local government.
What our client thinks
The project successfully achieved its primary aims to facilitate the implementation of the voter ID requirement and ensure the efficient issuing of ballot papers to eligible voters. It also delivered significant additional benefits, from valuable real-time information to reduced staffing requirements and paper use. It is an outstanding example of a partnership between a local authority and a private sector supplier successfully delivering efficiency through technology.
Sally Sprason, Electoral Services at Swindon Borough Council