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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 September 2007, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
John Turner interview transcript...
On the Politics Show, Sunday 30 September 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed John Turner, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators.

John Turner
The new constituency boundaries and with electoral software could create 'a real logistical nightmare'
John Turner

JON SOPEL: Now David Cameron isn't the only man with a pre-election headache. Consider and pity the heroic men and women who must make sure that returning officers are appointed, that postal ballots are printed and a hundred other things besides. Well I'm joined now from Norwich by the Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, John Turner. Mr Turner thanks very much indeed for being with us. Now big a logistical challenge would it be if there were to be a snap election.

JOHN TURNER: Probably the worst in living memory I would think. This has been a time when we've looked at all sorts of change in the electoral process, and we're still trying to cope with those and some of the lessons we learned from the May local government elections, things are still not in place, to put them right.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Well let's through a couple of the bigger ticket issues. Postal votes. Why is that a problem.

JOHN TURNER: The law on postal voting changed back in the early part of this decade to allow anybody to have a postal vote if they wanted. Last year we had a further change, because of security issues, that meant that everybody who wanted a postal vote, had to provide personal identifiers. That turned out to be a real problem for the May elections. You can multiply that several times over for an autumn election because traditionally, more people register for postal votes for general elections and of course the turn out is higher, and it's whether the systems in place could actually cope. There is an additional problem that the law has yet to be changed for Scotland. So we would have a dual system running. Those people in Scotland not doing it, people in England and Wales having to do it.

JON SOPEL: You said if the systems are in place. Are they not at the moment.

JOHN TURNER: There were all sorts of problems in may to do with software, linking registers back to the checking process and of course, not every local authority in the country had an election in May. In addition to that, we have problems that relate to printing these packs and getting them out in time because the General Election process is much shorter and there is no lead-in time unlike local government elections.

JON SOPEL: Okay, now what about electoral registers, which are always being up-dated. Will you be able to use the most recently up-dated electoral registers.

JOHN TURNER: No, the new register you and everybody else in the country should have had a form in the last couple of months to up-date the entry for your household, those forms are still being processed and the new register relating to those forms, does not come in to effect until the 1st December, which means that anybody who has changed or added people over the last couple of months, will not be registered for a General Election held before that date.

JON SOPEL: So there will be a whole bunch of eighteen year olds, who'll be disenfranchised.

JOHN TURNER: It's worse than just eighteen year olds, it's anybody who had moved house or changed their details and that could be upwards of a million people, perhaps even more.

JON SOPEL: The other issue of course is that some of the boundaries have been re-drawn and presumably there are issues, if you've got one constituency over two or three different councils.

JOHN TURNER: Yeah, there's two problems there. One is that as I speak, the returning officers for those sort of authorities have yet to be designated, so we don't even know who the returning officers are. More particularly, the software systems used by different local authorities, do not necessarily speak well to each other, particularly when you go back to this postal voting problem, so that of itself is a real logistical nightmare.

JON SOPEL: Yes, you do, you are painting a pretty grim picture. What is your advice, stroke plea to Gordon Brown.

JOHN TURNER: Keep his hand away from the phone.

JON SOPEL: You don't want an election.

JOHN TURNER: It's not whether I want it, it's whether he wants it of course, but the question is that with the best will in the world, nobody sitting in my place could guarantee that it will be less than trouble-free, and the real problem is that we could run in to unchartered water in terms of these problems that we've just been talking about.

JON SOPEL: Okay, John Turner, we'll be coming back to this I am sure. Thank you very much indeed for your time.

JOHN TURNER: Thanks.

END OF INTERVIEW WITH JOHN TURNER


Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of miss-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.


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The Politics Show Sunday 30 September 2007 at 13:35 BST on BBC One.

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