News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Friday, 8 March 2013

Voting in Bristol

I know it's not election time. But I was interested to note the turnout at Thursday's Presidential election in Kenya. I have seen estimates of between 70 and 85% turnout. I decided to compare this with the UK and with Bristol's figures for recent general elections.

The trend in voter turnout has generally been downward in the last 60 years, from a high point of 83.9% for the 1950 poll, which resulted in Labour's Clement Attlee forming a government with a majority of only five seats. The 1997 election saw the lowest post-war turnout, with only 59.4% of the electorate casting their vote. population. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister with a record number of Labour Parliamentary seats (418).

Bristol North West and its previous equivalent constituencies tends to see a higher-than-average voter turnout at general elections. The UK average in 2010, for instance, was 65.1% of the electorate, whereas Bristol North West saw a 68.5 % turnout. 

With participation in elections very uneven across age bands, the higher turnout locally might reflect the age demographic of Bristol North West. Nationally, for instance, only 44% of 18-24 year-olds voted in 2010, compared with 76% of those aged 65 and above.

Within the greater Bristol area, the highest turnout in 2010 was in the Kingswood constituency, where Chris Skidmore (Conservative) was elected in place of Labour's Roger Berry. Turnout was 72.19%. The lowest turnout locally was in Bristol South at 61.56%. Dawn Primarolo (Labour) is the MP, and also Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

Kenya's Presidential election has been affected by a computer bug in the ballot casting software, resulting in the votes needing to be counted by hand. Electoral administration remains the unglamorous but vital ingredient in the democratic process.

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