The Scottish Government is committed to increasing participation in elections both in terms of voter turnout and encouraging citizens to stand for election. Democratic participation challenges the inequalities of power and influence that exist in society. We need an electoral system that supports and empowers the engagement of the Scottish people in their own elections. Many organisations, including the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Management Board, political parties and local authorities have important roles to play in realising this aim of full engagement. The Scottish Government and Parliament have a specific role to play to ensure that electoral law supports increased participation and removes barriers to voter empowerment.
Under the Scotland Act 2016 the Scottish Parliament and Government have new powers and responsibilities relating to elections to the Scottish Parliament. These complement their existing responsibilities for local government elections. Control over both sets of elections opens up new possibilities for democratic renewal and putting the voter first.
This consultation paper is the first step towards these reforms. It includes a number of suggestions as to how the new powers could be used. The Scottish Government will use the results of this consultation process to develop policy proposals that may be taken forward in future legislation.
It should be noted that there has been a call for the reform of electoral law from the Law Commissions of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2015 they jointly ran a consultation during which many respondents agreed with their view that 'electoral law in the UK has grown to be complex, voluminous and fragmented'.
A joint interim report was published on 4 February 2016. A summary is also available.  That report highlights a number of areas where the Law Commissions consider that reform is desirable. Their report covers some of the topics featured in this consultation.
This consultation is directed at the whole electorate and at young people who will be the voters of the future, so it covers a wide range of topics. Reforms to the electoral system affect the experience of all voters, and the Scottish Government hopes that a broad range of respondents from all over Scotland will contribute their thoughts on the proposals in this consultation.