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Voting rules - have your say

A ballot box
A ballot box

Residents are being urged to get in touch with their views before Swale council makes a decision on changing voting arrangements for 2011.

Currently the authority holds its elections by thirds, whereby three years out of four, a third of the borough’s councillors are elected.

This means residents living in areas where they are represented by three councillors, vote three years out of four, whereas those living in single-member wards only vote in one year out of four.

It is possible for the council, following public consultation, to change its electoral arrangements so all electors can participate in elections once every four years on a common date. This system is called 'whole council elections’.

Possible advantages of whole council elections are that they offer more stability, including giving whichever party wins the majority of seats a clear, four-year term in which to see through their manifesto and allows voters much more opportunity to change the overall political control of a council.

It also removes the annual pause when every spring the political business of the council slows down while the electoral process takes place.

However, having elections by thirds gives residents more opportunities to vote and influence the political make up of the council, providing accountability year on year, and also ensures that no difficult decisions are postponed until after an election with no opportunity for residents to protest at the ballot box for four years.

Swale House
Swale House

Evidence from organisations such as the Electoral Commission shows that voter turnout is higher in areas that conduct whole council elections and that elections by thirds are confusing.

The timetable for moving from elections by thirds to whole council elections is set down in legislation and the earliest opportunity that Swale council could make such a change would be 2011.

Katherine Bescoby, Swale council’s Democratic and Electoral Services Manager, said: “The deadline for responses is the end of February and we anticipate that a decision will be made at a specially convened full Council meeting in March.

“We are really keen to hear the views from as many people and interested parties as possible so please complete the questionnaire and let us know how you feel about elections in Swale.”

An information pack with questionnaire, is online at http://www.swale.gov.uk/consultation-on-election-arrangements/ and hard copies are also available from the Council’s Democratic Services team on 01795 417330 or at receptions of the Council, its district offices and libraries.

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