Association of Electoral Administrators
The Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) is an organisation established to support professionals responsible for administering elections in the United Kingdom - the first of its kind in the world. Its current chief executive is John Turner.
The AEA was founded in 1987 and represents over 1,400 members. It also provides ballot services, running elections in a large number of councils. One of its most important roles is advising the government over modernising electoral procedures: ensuring postal votes are secure, for example, or identifying loopholes in the law that could allow electoral fraud.
In October 2007, the AEA's chief executive made a series of controversial statements about the likelihood of a trouble-free autumn general election taking place - one which then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was widely predicted to hold two or three years early. Turner's comments, which were backed by other electoral agencies, were widely distributed in the media. It was put on record that "upwards of a million people" would almost certainly be disenfranchised because the electoral register would be 11 months out of date - 18-year-olds newly eligible to vote, plus anyone moving home the previous year, would be unable to vote unless they made their own arrangements with their local council. Furthermore, the election itself would be a "logistical nightmare" due to problems with new software, the implementation of untried constituency boundaries, and various issues with postal voting due to reforms from the May local elections not having been put in place. This was a particular problem in Scotland, where measures to avoid a repeat of widespread vote-rigging in Birmingham, England had not been implemented. Turner's public advice to Brown was to "keep your hand away from the phone".