Council result makes easier reading than Holyrood
THE city council elections escaped the widespread confusion that plagued the Holyrood vote, detailed statistics released today show.
Figures given out by Edinburgh returning officer Tom Aitchison reveal only 1.3 per cent of council votes were spoiled at the May 3 elections in the Capital, compared with 5.2 per cent of Holyrood constituency votes, and 3.1 per cent of Holyrood list votes.
There had been fears the introduction of a new voting system for council elections, the Single Transferable Vote (STV), would lead to confusion among voters.
Although the percentage of spoiled council ballot papers this time was double the 0.6 per cent recorded in Edinburgh's last council elections in 2003, it was nowhere near the disastrous figures for this year's Scottish Parliament elections.
The Electoral Reform Society - which has long campaigned for STV - said the low rate of spoiled papers in the council elections showed voters had coped well with the change from voting with an X to ranking candidates in order of preference.
Amy Rodger, Scottish director of the ERS, said across Scotland the average rate of spoiled papers in the council elections was about two per cent, roughly the same as in the Northern Ireland assembly elections, which also used STV.
She said: "We are very pleased voters were able to cope with STV and did use the system.
We believe STV is a more intuitive system for voters."
Mr Aitchison said the statistics suggested voters did seem to understand the system of ranking candidates 1, 2, 3, etc.
"The STV part of the election does appear to have gone pretty well," he said.
But the main problem with the Holyrood election seems to have been not so much the system as the design of the ballot paper.
At the two previous Scottish Parliament elections, there were separate ballot papers for the constituency and list votes. In 2003 the spoil rates were 0.7 per cent in the constituency vote and 0.6 per cent on the list.
But this time, the Scotland Office, which is in charge of Holyrood elections, decided to combine the two votes on a single ballot paper. The regional candidates were placed in a column on the left and the constituency candidates on the right.
Voters were supposed to place one X in each column, but the instructions at the top of the paper said "You have two votes".
Due to the large number of candidates whose names had to be fitted on, two arrows directing voters to the two separate columns were omitted from the ballot papers in Edinburgh.
Mr Aitchison said by far the most common reason for papers being rejected was people placing two Xs in the regional column, leaving the constituency column blank.
The STV results have prompted observations that some candidates who received a large number of first preferences failed to get elected, while others with fewer first preferences were successful.
Denis Mollison, emeritus professor of statistics at Heriot-Watt University, said: "They might have done well on first preferences, but not well enough to entitle them to get in."
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