£100K project to automate voter registration will not hit deadline

A PROJECT to introduce automated voter registration for next year’s general election – backed by £100,000 of taxpayers’ money – will not be completed by June 2022, it has been revealed.

Related electoral reform initiatives, such as electronic voting, have been set back by a failure to progress automated voter registration, according to the Privileges and Procedures Committee
Related electoral reform initiatives, such as electronic voting, have been set back by a failure to progress automated voter registration, according to the Privileges and Procedures Committee

The failure of the scheme, which has been blamed on insufficient resourcing, means that other technological modernisation, such as the introduction of electronic voting, will not be progressed as soon as hoped.

A report on the matter, released by the Privileges and Procedures Committee, said the group wrote to Treasury Minister Susie Pinel to advise of ‘troubling deficiencies in project and financial management, albeit in relation to a relatively small project’.

The report adds that a review led by States Greffier Mark Egan determined that not enough time, staff and budget were available to complete the project by the next election in June 2022, and advised that the PPC’s members were ‘deeply disappointed’ by this.

The automation of the electoral roll was adopted into the Common Strategic Policy in 2018 following an amendment by Deputy Scott Wickenden, and £100,000 was allocated in the Government Plan for 2020 to 2023 for the project.

The plan was to use centrally held government information to create a database of electors, replacing the cumbersome and expensive practice of the parishes registering households each year. It had been hoped that automatic registration would boost voter turnout, which stood at 43.38% for the Senatorial election held in 2018.

But the PPC’s report says it had been determined that the project would not meet its deadline, following a ‘health check’ review, and that Deputy Pinel would be consulted on the matter.

The report said: ‘A considerable amount of work was undertaken during the first half of 2021 to draw up detailed requirements for the new system.

‘However, when the project manager changed in summer 2020, the Greffier [Mark Egan] expressed concerns about whether a new system could be introduced in time for the 2022 election and invited the incoming project manager to conduct a project health check.

‘This work found that the estimated cost of introducing the new system was likely to be considerably in excess of the existing budget; an estimated 56 weeks’ work would be required to create, test and introduce the new system; and additional staff resources would be required in some areas, such as testing.’

It adds: ‘Given these findings, and the lack of funding for extensive further work, the Greffier closed the programme and reported the outcome to PPC.

‘The committee has written to the Treasury Minister to draw her attention to what would appear to be troubling deficiencies in project and financial management, albeit in relation to a relatively small project.’

The report added that the PPC was ‘deeply disappointed to report to the States that automatic electoral registration will not be in place for the 2022 election’, meaning long-term plans to enable Islanders to vote electronically have also been set back.

‘Other potentially desirable innovations, such as enabling voters to have a choice as to where they vote on polling day, or voting by electronic means, cannot proceed without reform of the registration process,’ it says.

‘The committee will shortly consider an options paper on the way ahead for reforming electoral registration. Decisions on how to reform electoral registration will now be for the next States and PPC to take.’

Top Stories

More From The Jersey Evening Post

UK & International News