NABO has responded to the CRT Consultation paper – REVIEW OF ELECTIONS TO COUNCIL, published 19 November 2013, see:
The CRT Council was formed 18 months ago ahead of the launch of the Canal & River Trust and has an important role in helping to shape policy, raise and debate issues, provide guidance and perspective, and act as a sounding board for Trustees. The Council also has the responsibility of appointing and, if necessary, dismissing Trustees.
NABO’s responses relate to the Boater elections only.
Issue 1 – Nomination rules for Election Candidates
2 options proposed: 1) increase in number of sponsors from 10 to 20 or higher
2) No change
NABO Response:Increasing the number of sponsors would deter candidates and unduly favour candidates with large-scale organisations behind them. We favour no change in the number of sponsors required but would suggest that validly nominated candidates should be informed on receipt of their nomination papers. In the first round of elections this was not done and left would-be candidates not knowing if their papers were acceptable and giving them no time to secure further valid nominations from additional sponsors. A list of validly nominated persons should then be published immediately after nomination day to enable any candidates to withdraw by written notice within 5 days. This would give a candidate the opportunity to withdraw in favour of another person on the list who he or she felt was more worthy of support. This is an accepted procedure in local and national elections.
We consider that all candidates should be under a duty to disclose their memberships and positions of responsibility in boating organisations, clubs, associations and relevant companies to make their affiliations totally transparent.
The potential domination of any one organisation should be controlled and managed by CRT to ensure a broader range of successful candidates representative of a wide spectrum of boaters.
Issue 2 – Time Plan
Elections take place immediately pre-Christmas with voting early February.
NABO Response:holding the nomination process over Christmas makes obtaining sponsors difficult. This is a time when boating activity is at its lowest and potential sponsors are not easily contacted if their home addresses (or email contacts) are not known. We would suggest that nominations should be sought in autumn, with elections being held either before or after Christmas.
Issue 3 – Turn-out
Turn out = 26%: CRT wants to improve this figure.
NABO Response:turn out is in line with local government elections. More people would vote if they thought it would make a difference to the outcome. Too many candidates from one organisation gives little hope for an independent candidate to succeed. A smaller list of candidates (enabled by the opportunity to withdraw from the election – see Issue 1 above) who anticipate wider support from boaters would increase the perceived value of voting.
Issue 4 – Communications & support for prospective candidates & electors
CRT wants to improve communications and support for candidates and electors
NABO Response:Greater clarity is required. Suggest Q&A sheet on all aspects of procedure. Involve persons with expertise and experience in democratic elections to advise on procedures before the election process commences.
Issue 5 – Online election
Future elections will be online with no postal option due to cost.
CRT suggests an email contact address could be a friend or a boating organisation.
NABO Response:Continuous cruisers and other non-computer users could have difficulty in accessing internet and email. An email address at a waterway association or club would preclude personal, secret voting and would be construed as a fraudulent election practice. The CRT would not wish to be associated with doubtful practices. We strongly recommend that postal voting on request (with postage and stationery costs at the voter’s expense) should continue to be an option. The suggested option to cast votes by telephone could be an alternative for some voters but is open to the same potential abuse as electronic voting, with no certainty that the named voter is personally casting the vote.
It is interesting to note that in the first election two-thirds of the votes were cast by post, with only one-third being cast using the optional on-line voting method. Despite this being the computer-age many people still prefer to vote by post – a trend which is increasing in respect of local council elections and general elections.
If a wholly electronic election process is adopted this may reduce the percentage turnout – the very opposite outcome to that desired by CRT.
It is stated that sponsors would confirm their support online but this again precludes those who are unable or unwilling to use computer equipment. We consider that an alternative paper-based procedure should be available to those sponsors.
Any previous restriction on the number of words in the election statements would no longer be an issue if all candidates were afforded the opportunity to have a CRT web page allocated for them to promote themselves. This would enable voters to glean more information about each candidate from their manifestos and encourage them to vote if they knew more about them.
Issue 6 – Electoral method
Single transferable vote
NABO Response:The STV voting method is acceptable so long as overseen and certified by the Electoral Reform Society.
Issue 7 – Rules relating to eligibility to vote in more than one election
Option 1 – voters able to vote in all elections if eligible
Option 2 – single nominated vote
NABO Response:Option 1 should be permitted. If eligible in more than one election a person should be allowed to vote in each constituency.
Issue 8 – Multiple boats registered with the same owner
Option 1 – one vote per boat
Option 2 – one vote per customer
NABO Response:Option 1 should prevail i.e. one vote per boat. It is simple and easily understood and the number of voters owning more than one boat is unlikely to have any significant adverse effect on the result.
Issue 9 – Boats in joint ownership
Option 1 – first 2 persons named on licence able to vote
Option 2 – one vote per customer
NABO Response:Option 2 should prevail. This is the established principle in building society elections where only the first-named member of a joint account may vote.
Issue 10 – Allocation of votes in the Boating Business election
No changes proposed
NABO Response:We would leave consideration of this matter to those involved in this sector.
Issue 11 – Boaters’ eligibility to vote
Option 1 – boaters must hold a 3, 6 or 12 month licence on 1 July preceding elections
Option 2 – boaters must to hold a 12 month licence on nomination day
NABO Response:Option 1 is too remote from the suggested nomination day and will make obtaining valid sponsors difficult. Candidates will not know if a particular sponsor fulfilled the criteria at the appropriate time. Option 2 is a simple concept and easily understood but refer to our response to Issue 2- moving the election date to autumn whilst boaters are active and meeting one another.
Issue 12 – Exclusions
Licence holders in breach of contract with CRT or in arrears would be unable to vote, stand or serve on Council
NABO Response:It should be sufficient for the holder of a boat licence that has not been withdrawn by CRT to be eligible to vote. Any other scenario such as an ongoing legal dispute or possibility of a dispute should not be grounds for exclusion.