Law Commission review of electoral law

The Law Commissions have today published a report setting out their recommendations for reforming electoral law in the UK. They have also published a shorter summary of the report, which contains all of their recommendations. This is a significant milestone in the development of  a new legal framework for elections and referendums.  As I have said on the blog previously, the UK’s body of electoral laws has become too large, fragmented, complex and out of date. We very much welcome the reforms outlined by the Law Commissions and believe the proposals will address many of the difficulties with the current law.

If implemented, the Law Commissions’ recommendations for change will bring about real improvements:

  • More accessible elections – the simplified and updated laws will mean that it will be easier for candidates and voters to take part in elections. There will also be improved mechanisms for candidates and voters to take action where things go wrong and lessons can be more easily learned.
  • Better, more efficient administration of elections – registering electors and administering elections would become a simpler task. This would be more efficient and cost effective to run. It would also allow more time and money to be invested in improving the services provided to candidates and voters; time which is currently spent having to deal with a complex, cumbersome set of laws. Ultimately this would result in reducing the burden of running electoral services on local government and better experiences for candidates and voters.
  • Election laws that are up to date and that can be kept up to date – the laws on which elections are run will be brought up to date and will better reflect the expectations of voters and candidates. Also, a more simplified legislative framework will mean that electoral law will be easier to update and manage in the future. This will be less burdensome on future governments and will mean that the law will be able to keep pace with changes in technology and society.

The Electoral Commission has been involved in this project since its beginning and we have worked closely with the Law Commissions to inform their work. We strongly support the project as does the whole electoral community. This is a one-off opportunity to ensure that the UK’s electoral law is truly fit for purpose.

I hope that the Governments with responsibility for electoral law (currently the UK and Scottish Governments) will now quickly give permission for the project to move into its final phase – drafting new electoral law in time for a new and better legal framework to be in place for the UK elections in 2020 and the devolved elections in 2021.

Louise Footner, Head of Legal


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