Category Archives: Election law

The Election Law Channel is dedicated to coverage of UK election law, giving unrivalled detailed news of election law matters, explaining complex matters in plain English and setting out the practical relevance of technical legal provisions.

Don’t pay for free voter registration, warns elections watchdog

Ballot boxThe Electoral Commission, the UK elections watchdog, is urging people not to use a paid-for service to register to vote.

The independent elections watchdog has contacted ‘UK Electoral Roll’ after it was alerted to the company offering a £30-a-time ‘assisted service’ to complete customers’ electoral roll registrations.

The company also uses a £1.53 a minute premium rate number to take customer questions.

Alex Robertson, Director of Communications, said:

This service is clearly ripping people off. It is very simple to register to vote and we want to make sure no one

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Make sure your nomination is not invalid

Are you standing in the local elections in May?

If so, you need to be aware of a change in the guidance about nominations and the new nomination form. If you do not return the form correctly you may be disqualified.

The regulation is:

a candidate must return the entire consent to nomination form which includes copies of the relevant legislation by the close of nominations for their nomination to be valid

So when you return your nomination form you must send back the 5 pages of legislation, as well as the consent form.

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Law Commission sets out details for review of election law

From the Law Commission’s website:

We have commenced work on reforming electoral law.  We expect to open a consultation in late 2014.  A report with recommendations to Government will be published in summer 2015…

The twin aims of the project are to ensure, first, that electoral laws are presented within a rational, modern legislative framework, governing all elections and referendums under statute; and second, that the law governing the conduct of elections and referendums is modern, simple, and fit for purpose.

More details are on the Law Commission’s website but it’s worth …

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Individual electoral registration: Northern Ireland shows that the annual canvass must be kept

Electoral Commission logoOne of the key disputes over how individual electoral registration should be introduced in England, Scotland and Wales is whether having people join and leave the register regularly through the year, alongside better use of other information about people moving (e.g. prompting people who take out a new TV license to register), would mean that the once-a-year check on all addresses – the ‘annual canvass’ – can be dropped.

The Electoral Commission has just published the results of its research into how individual electoral registration has

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Michael Mates faces “electoral poll fraud probe” by the police

The Mirror reports:

Former Tory Minister Michael Mates is being probed for alleged electoral fraud over his attempt to become one of David Cameron’s new police commissioners.

The crony of crooked tycoon and Tory donor Asil Nadir, will be grilled by police over claims he broke election laws by giving a false address to win the lucrative post…

It was sparked by a complaint from rival Don Jerrard, an independent “justice and anti-corruption” candidate fighting Mr Mates for the £85,000-a-year role running the Hampshire force.

The former lawyer wrote to the county’s Chief Constable claiming Mr Mates breached the 2006 Fraud Act by

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How many votes will the Labour candidate who isn’t a candidate get?

Here’s an interesting twist to the tale of Lee Barron, the latest Labour Police Commissioner candidate who has had to pull out for a previous conviction.

This has come to light too late in the day for him to actually pull out of the election, so his name will still be on the ballot paper with the Labour Party’s name and logo next to it. If he’s elected, he will have to immediately resign, triggering a by-election.

For voters who don’t follow the news that closely, there is therefore …

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Chris Rennard backs move to kill off, not just delay, boundary changes

PoliticsHome reports:

Chris RennardLabour peer Lord Hart has just tabled an amendment to the Electoral Registration Bill which would have another major impact on the timetable of the Coalition’s plans to cut seat numbers.

The amendment, which seeks to amend a clause in Section 10 of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, declares that the Boundary Commissions reviews will not take place until….2018. Yes, you read that right, 2018.

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UK electoral law is fragmented, convoluted and causing errors

So writes Toby James:

There has recently been a rise in concerns about the quality of elections in the UK and electoral administrators have commonly been blamed for making administrative errors or not planning properly for elections.

The causes of legal fragmentation and complexity are partly devolution. This has created many overlapping frameworks of electoral law, more frequent elections and more combined elections and the lack of consolidation. But it is also that electoral law needs to be consolidated periodically and this has not been done since the 1980s.

Read his piece in full to find out what is being done about that.

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Election law snippets

MPs who suffer mental health problems will benefit from the government’s decision to back a Bill going through Parliament:

The Deputy Prime Minister announced that the Government is backing the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill brought forward by Gavin Barwell MP, which receives Second Reading in the House of Commons today.

The Bill repeals section 141 of the Mental Health Act, which sets out that an MP automatically loses their seat if detained under the Act for more than six months. It also amends similar discriminatory provisions in legislation concerning

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Pendle investigates claims of postal vote fraud

News via the BBC:

The council’s chief executive Stephen Barnes had written a letter to the Electoral Commission last year, saying allegations and perceptions of malpractice around postal voting “are seriously undermining public confidence in the whole electoral process”.

In the letter, the council cited examples of probable malpractice and the difficulties in taking action…

The leader of the borough council’s Labour Group, Councillor Mohammad Iqbal, said his party had won seats from the Conservatives fairly, adding: “There isn’t a problem in Pendle”…

The panel, consisting of cross-party councillors and representatives, will gather evidence at five public hearings across the borough.

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LibLink: Mark Pack – Give people power over the sharing of their data

The Voice‘s Mark Pack has been writing about individual electoral registration for the IPPR’s website:

If I were to move, I would be quite happy to let the gas company, the TV Licensing authority, the local council’s tax department, the electoral registration services and many others know, all in one go.

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Labour Police Commissioner candidate set to defy ban on magistrates

As if two Labour candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner posts running into problems with past misdeeds wasn’t enough, now a third is set to defy the ban on magistrates standing:

Lee Barron, the Labour candidate for the new post, has revealed how is prepared to refuse to stand down as a magistrate before the election, which will be held in November.

Guidance issued last Friday by a senior judge has effectively barred magistrates from standing for the post, which in Northamptonshire comes with an estimated £70,000 salary…

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Second Labour Police Commissioner candidate falls foul of “exceptionally tough condition of eligibility”

Alan Charles has now joined Bob Ashford in standing down as a Labour candidate for November’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections due to a youthful brush with the law.

His statement points the finger at the Home Office and Electoral Commission:

The Labour Party has only now received clarification from the Home Office and the Electoral Commission that juvenile convictions for imprisonable offences will bar people from becoming a police and crime commissioner.

That is, however, not quite the full story because this issue was directly debated when the legislation was going …

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How Parliament walked eyes wide open into the Bob Ashford mess

Would-be Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Bob Ashford is rightly getting a positive press and sympathy from across the political spectrum today for discovering he’s disqualified from standing thanks to a £5 fine he paid 46 years ago.

It is absurd that he can’t stand. It is an absurdity that Parliament deliberately decided to enact, for the ban does not arise from unintended side effects of another measure or from poor drafting. Instead, it was a deliberate decision to introduce an unprecedented restriction on who can stand in the Police …

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Online electoral registration: not quite as novel at it sounds

Earlier this month Harrow Council caught the headlines for its new electoral registration system:

Harrow Council has become the first local authority in the country to take its electoral registration online.

As authorities across the country contact residents to ensure their details are added to the electoral register, Harrow will be asking people to respond to the annual canvass online.

The council said residents would be able confirm details “at the click of a button”, avoiding “cumbersome paper forms”.

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High Court orders recount in Denbighshire election mix-up

Previously we reported how a block of votes for Labour candidate Paul Penlington were wrongly counted as being for similarly named Conservative rival Allan Pennington in the Prestatyn North ward count this May.

The High Court has now ordered a recount:

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Gender quotas get legal backing in Ireland

Interesting news from Ireland on the long-running question of male dominance of elected Parliamentary posts:

GENDER QUOTAS are set to become law after the Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Bill 2011 passed all stages in the Dáil yesterday.

The legislation, which has yet to be signed by the President, will halve State funding to parties unless 30 per cent of their candidates at the next general election are women. This figure will rise to 40 per cent at subsequent general elections…

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Court bid to get Woking election result overturned

Get Surrey reports:

Woking Borough Council (WBC) will appear at the High Court later this month after an application was made to declare an election result invalid.

Labour hopeful Mohammad Ali, who came second at the borough council election for the Maybury and Sheerwater ward in May, has submitted the claim, highlighting what he calls ‘persistent electoral irregularities’ including the number of postal votes in the area and rejected ballots.

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Government publishes implementation plan for individual electoral registration

Cabinet Office logoThis week the Cabinet Office has published its detailed implementation plan for the introduction of individual electoral registration in England, Scotland and Wales. (Northern Ireland already uses it.)

Individual electoral registration has long been pushed for by the Electoral Commission and supported by all three of the main political parties. However, getting the details right is important as this is one of those issues where the administrative details can completely wreck the policy if got wrong.

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A longer watch for the weekend: explanations of electoral bias

Something a little longer for the weekend – a talk explaining how the British electoral system works, and in particular why some parties need more votes to get a winning number of seats than other parties:

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Overnight counting, electoral fraud and the running of elections: a bounty of Electoral Commission reports

The last few days have been busy ones for the Electoral Commission, with most of the headlines caught by their report into when election counts should take place (overnight or the next day):

The Electoral Commission has recommended general election counts should continue to be held overnight.

Before the 2010 election, a number of councils made plans to count votes the day after polling day.

But a campaign by MPs and others resulted in a change of the law requiring counts to start within four hours of the close of polls…

Chair of the Electoral Commission Jenny Watson said: “We are rightly proud

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Good news on electoral registration data geekery

As GeoConnexion reports:

Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace have welcomed the Cabinet Office’s call for greater use of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) across the public sector, to support the move towards individual electoral registration (IER).

UPRNs are assigned to address records by local authorities at the planning stage and persist for the lifetime of each and every property across Great Britain. This means that every property is uniquely recorded and can be unequivocally identified by any organisation that holds the UPRN in its own records. Ordnance Survey publishes the UPRNs in its AddressBase range of products.

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Complaint upheld against SNP MSP caught using public funds to promote SNP candidates

Just a quick update on a story I brought to you last month about SNP MSP Rob Gibson. He used adverts, funded by the Scottish Parliament, for his surgeries which included some heavy duty promotion of his staff who at the time were standing as candidates for Highland Council. Both were subsequently elected.

 

At the time, Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott complained to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body. The minutes of their most recent meeting have been published and show that:

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Sensible decision from European Court on prisoner voting rights

The BBC reports:

The European Court of Human Rights has said individual governments can decide how to implement a ban on convicted prisoners voting.

The judgement means the UK will be able to decide for itself how to resolve the long-standing row over votes for prisoners.

But the court says the UK only has six months to outline its proposed reforms…

In a summary of its judgement, the court said it “accepted the Government’s argument that each State has a wide discretion as to how it regulates the ban, both as

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Is the end in sight for Returning Officer bonuses?

I’ve written often enough before about the problems with the “bonus” payments that Returning Officers receive for doing their job at election time. One problem is that they receive the bonuses in full even if they have messed up dreadfully, though that is now changing. The other is that the grounds for having the bonuses in the first place are pretty thin:

The role of being Returning Officer goes with having a job – typically council chief executive –  that is usually well paid to begin with (often six figure salaries) and where anyone taking on the job knows

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Denbighshire County Council admits votes were counted wrong

Voters had to take some care when voting in Prestatyn North on May 3rd, as the Labour candidate was called Paul Penlington and the Conservative Allan Pennington. But the council’s counting staff did not take the same care when it came to the count, as WalesOnline reports:

Returning officer and council chief executive Mohammed Mehmet said a block of ballot papers which should have been allocated to the Labour candidate Paul Penlington were “inadvertently” allocated to Tory Allan Pennington, who won the last of the three seats available on the ward.

Mr Penlington or Labour now have until May 24 to decide whether

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Individual electoral registration: welcome changes to the details

Over the weekend, I wrote about how welcome the ancillary details are in the newly published Electoral Registration and Administration Bill. Those are the “and Administration” part of the Bill, but the main act is electoral registration, with the Bill laying out details of the move to individual electoral registration across Great Britain, catching up with Northern Ireland.

I’ve written before about why individual electoral registration is a good policy, and hence has been long pushed for by the Electoral Commission and supported by all the main political parties. In brief, it is to do with principle (your right to vote shouldn’t depend on whether or not someone else fills in a form on your behalf), with fraud (individual registration will be a bit like putting window locks on, cutting crime by making it harder) and with the problem of landlords registering themselves rather than their tenants. You can read more about that in What’s the point of switching to individual electoral registration? but on to the Bill…

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Police urged to investigate campaign against Labour and Lib Dem councillors in Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes Liberal Democrats are asking the police to investigate campaign leaflets put out during this year’s council elections which attacked both Lib Dem and Labour councillors for their views on providing space for Travellers.

A series of leaflets were put out during the election attacking named candidates from the two parties, accusing them of putting too much effort into housing Travellers compared to “the homeless, OAPs, and the disabled”. Although the leaflets contained a name and phone number, they did not contain the election imprint information required by …

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Police investigate electoral allegations in Hyndburn

The Lancashire Telegraph reports:

POLICE have launched an investigation into voting at this month’s local elections.

Labour officials have made a complaint about irregularities concerning proxy votes in Hyndburn.

A proxy vote is when votes are placed at the polling station on somebody’s behalf, usually when they are unable to leave the house or are on holiday and have chosen not to vote via post.

Police said they had also launched an investigation into claims constituency MP Graham Jones had intimidated voters.

They said this was not connected with the proxy votes allegations.

In three wards in Hyndburn there were more than fifty proxy …

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A trio of very welcome election law changes on the way

Postal ballot paper being postedThe Queen’s Speech mentioned a Bill to introduce individual electoral registration (see this post if you’re not sure why individual electoral registration is a good thing). It also made vague reference to other electoral administration reforms. Now I’ve read the proposed Bill and seen what they are, I’m rather pleased – as they include three things I’ve often raised in previous election law consultations and on this blog.

First, extending the timetable for Parliamentary by-elections. As I’ve written before about this

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