Too far to bother? Polling station location and turnout in UK elections

"Polling Station" signAt the May 2010 UK General Election, turnout increased, in some areas more than 10%, as the expected hung parliament brought more voters to the polls. At a few polling stations, numbers were so high that people were turned away, with the stations closing as scheduled at 10pm with some unable to vote.

But does the placement of polling stations affect turnout? In a 2009 article in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Scott Orford, Colin Rallings, Michael Thrasher and Galina Borisyuk look at the effect of polling station placement on turnout in one urban UK constituency (Brent, in West London). They found that, by several measures, areas with polling stations on average further away from the voter had lower turnout, particularly in European and local elections, which in the UK have substantially lower turnout than parliamentary elections. They conclude by advocating “a more strategic approach to the siting of polling stations.”

View the BBC News article here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8666338.stm BBC News, 7 May 2010, “Election 2010: Inquiry as voters miss out as polls shut”
View the Orford et al (2009) article here Orford et al (2009), “Electoral salience and the costs of voting at national, sub-national and supra-national elections in the UK: a case study of Brent, UK”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 34, Issue 2, Pages 195-214

Robin de la Motte

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