Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 10:10 UK

'More notice' call for elections

The count
The current notice period is 17 working days before polling day

The prime minister should give more than a month's notice if he is calling a general election, a watchdog has suggested in a report.

The Electoral Commission recommends extending the parliamentary election timetable from 17 to 25 working days - in line with that of local government.

It says extra time is needed for printing and processing postal votes.

Elsewhere in the report it raised some concerns about electronic counting in the 2008 London elections.

Currently there is a minimum of 17 working days between the issuing of a writ to returning officers in each constituency - telling them to return an MP for the next Parliament - and the election itself.

"Increasing pressures"

It can be longer - Conservative former PM John Major called the 1997 general election eight weeks before polling day.

If the election timetable was extended in line with the Electoral Commission's recommendation, it could mean an announcement would have to be made up to 36 days before polling day, once weekends and bank holidays were taken into account.

The commission points out it has recommended the period be extended before in 2003, but "in light of comments we have received from electoral administrators about increasing pressures during the time available for printing and processing postal ballot packs" they are recommending it again.

In three reports on the local elections in England, Wales and for the Greater London Authority, it said they generally went smoothly.

But it raised concerns about the electronic counting system used in London, including the advanced technical knowledge needed to understand and scrutinise the system and errors in transmitting results to the central collation area at City Hall.

It says a clear national strategy is needed before electronic counting is used in future.

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