The best of Democratic Audit’s 2014 coverage of elections and electoral issues

2014 saw local and European elections in the UK, as well as elections right across the world. We also saw the relentless build up to the 2015 General Election. As a result, Democratic Audit carried a great deal of research and argument on elections both at home and further afield. As part of our continuing series of round-ups, some of the best of that work is linked to below. 

euro ballot paper belgiumWhy all our top parties are doing voters a disservice by cramming the European Parliament ballot papers with the names of ‘no hope’ candidates

When British voters went to the polls on 22 May to elect MEPs to the European Parliament for another five years, they faced complex ballot papers with large number of candidates on them. The Democratic Audit team explain how the List PR system works and show how all the major parties follow practices that makes the ballot papers far more difficult for voters to understand than they could be.


In 2010, Labour's Glenda Jackson won the Hampstead & Kilburn constituency by just 42 votes. Credit: Stephane Goldstein, CC BY-ND 2.0

Voters in marginal constituencies know more about parties’ policy positions than those in safe seats

Britain’s first past the post electoral system means that at general elections only a minority of constituencies are likely to change hands. Voters in these marginal seats, therefore, play a critical role in determining the outcome of elections. Caitlin Milazzo has examined how well-informed voters are about their choices in marginal seats, compared to those in safe seats, and shares her findings here.


Ballot Papers at an Afghan Polling StationThere are costs and benefits to rotating the names of candidates on ballot papers

There is a small but comprehensive literature on the impact of candidate and party position of election outcomes, with a consensus that appearing in particular positions a ballot paper can influence voter choice. Here, Kamil Marcinkiewicz adds to this literature, arguing that while name position does have an impact, it is not a uniform phenomenon, with different impacts being felt in different electoral systems and indeed countries.


Credit: Coventry City Council, CC BY SA 2.)Higher spending on electoral administration generally increases levels of integrity

Running elections is expensive, with various commitments such as protecting against fraud, the handling of deposits, and coordinating with larger authorities all consuming funds. But is it money well spent? Alistair Clark shares findings which show that greater levels of overall spending on elections tends to increase levels of electoral integrity.


nti_Excel_12.jpgThrowing the rascals out is tricky, but not impossible

It is a commonly understood feature of democratic political systems that under-performing governments tend to be ejected by voters in favour of the most palatable alternative, but is that really the case? Catherine E. de Vries, drawing on new research, argues that voter sophistication and issue salience each play a key role, concluding that incumbent governments can expect to earn credit for favourable, or blame for unsatisfactory, policy outcomes.


Credit: Kevin Dooley, CC BY 2.0Open primaries do little to encourage candidate moderation

Many blame the ongoing polarisation of Congress on the system of primary election that often rewards the most extreme candidates on either side. But are “open” primaries, where more than just regular partisans can participate the solution to this polarisation? Using data from two decades of state-level experimentation with primary laws, Eric McGhee finds that primary races that are “pure closed” can actually result in candidates that are slightly closer together ideologically than those that are “pure open”. Despite this, California has found some success with open primaries increasing moderation among party nominees, and it may well signal the conditions for success.



Prisoners should be allowed to share the responsibility of democracy through voting

Prisoners continue to be disenfranchised, despite apparently being on the wrong side of a number of legal cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights. Helen Brown Coverdale argues that the Government should allow prisoners to vote, and that doing so would build legitimacy, benefit prisoners in their rehabilitation, and uphold human rights.


image12 things we learned during the European and local elections

Millions of Brits cast a vote in the 2014 European and local elections. Most of the votes haven’t been counted yet, and in much of Europe the polls are still open. But there’s a great deal we have already learned about the electoral process from the past few weeks of campaigning and coverage, ranging from the perils of moving house to our prohibition on polling station selfies.

Note: this post represents the views of the authors and not those of Democratic Audit UK or the LSE. For individual image credits please see the articles linked to. Please read our comments policy before posting. 

Similar Posts