Dr Alistair Clark, Newcastle University, 'Holding Elections Under COVID-19 Circumstances: British and Comparative Responses'.
COVID-19 has posed fundamental questions for democratic practices. Not least of these challenges have been to electoral integrity and administration. Under extreme circumstances, in many countries planning for elections and referendums continued during the pandemic, while other countries postponed their contests. Informed by an ESRC-funded research project, conducted with International IDEA and colleagues at UEA/Electoral Integrity Project, this presentation examines the challenges faced in delivering elections under COVID-19. It outlines research currently contributing to the development of an edited volume forthcoming later in 2022 by James, Clark and Asplund, Electoral Integrity and COVID-19: Lessons from an International Emergency, Stockholm: International IDEA.
The first part briefly considers the potential for elections to spread COVID-19. The second part examines the specific experience of Scotland, Wales and England which all ran elections in May 2021. In the English case, these were postponed for a period of time out of step with emerging international practice. With scheduled Scottish and Welsh parliament elections also taking place, all of GB was at the polls in May 2021, but in the case of most of these contests, with no prior experience of having run elections under COVID-19. The third section shift the focus to the comparative level and considers the issues being implemented as election officials planned for new elections in 2020-21 and beyond. What mitigations and changes were required to the electoral process for candidates, voters and administrators? To what extent have they improved accessibility, or do they highlight difficulties in electoral integrity? The concluding section suggests that COVID-19 highlights the need to rethink how elections are delivered.
This event will be held both in person and online via MS Teams.