Closing system

Publication of new guidelines to improve the accountability of the Election Commission

  • The Electoral Commission will be made more accountable to Parliament
  • Decision follows Pickles’ review of voter fraud
  • Consultation on the draft guidance opens today

Today (22 August 2022) the Department of Leveling Up opened consultation on further guidance to improve the accountability of the Electoral Commission to the UK Parliament. This guidance responds to the concern raised in Lord Eric Pickles’ independent review into electoral fraud that the current system of Electoral Commission oversight is not fit for purpose.

The report also highlighted cases such as Tower Hamlets – in which the 2014 mayoral election was declared void due to corrupt and illegal practices – as evidence of vulnerabilities in our system that need to be fixed.

The Elections Act 2022 embodies the government’s clear commitment to protect the integrity of our democracy. As part of the law, new guidance for the regulator will be introduced subject to the approval of the UK Parliament.

The Declaration’s draft guidelines state that the Electoral Commission should assist returning officers in ensuring the secrecy of the vote inside polling stations. This responds to cross-party concerns over the practice of so-called “family voting” or “community voting” in some parts of the country, where some voters are alleged to be pressured by their spouse or partner to know who to vote for inside. voting booths.

In May 2022 the independent organisation, Democracy Volunteers, claimed to have identified 5% of all voters they observed in the Tower Hamlets election caused or were affected by ‘family voting’ and over 85% of those who were affected by the “family vote”. to vote” were women, mostly of Asian origin.

Upgrade Secretary Greg Clark said:

The public rightly expects effective and independent regulation of the electoral system. The Pickles report made it clear that the Electoral Commission needed to change.

That is why we are improving the accountability of the Electoral Commission by giving Parliament greater visibility and better oversight of the work of the Commission.

This guidance is a necessary step to increase the accountability of the Electoral Commission to the UK Parliament while respecting its operational independence.

It is totally unacceptable for anyone’s vote to be influenced or coerced inside a polling station. Protecting the secrecy of the ballot is of the utmost importance to the health of our democracy.

The government, in its 2019 manifesto, pledged to protect the integrity of our democracy. The new draft guidelines therefore require the Commission to take into account issues such as combating electoral fraud, assisting returning officers to ensure the secrecy of the ballot in polling stations and supporting participation by informing the public on suffrage and voter registration, when performing its relevant regulatory functions.

The draft guidelines also reflect the conclusion of the Pickles report that the Commission needed to refocus on its core functions.

The consultation – which will close on 5 December 2022 – will provide those consulted by the law the opportunity to share their views on the draft guidance. Under the Electoral Law, those consulted are the Commission itself, the Committee of the President of the Electoral Commission and the Committee for Upgrading, Housing and Communities.

What happens next?

The government will consider all responses to the consultation and make any necessary changes before submitting the draft guidance to Parliament for consideration. Parliamentarians will have the opportunity to share their views on the draft before deciding whether to approve or reject the draft guidance in its entirety.

More information

The Elections Act 2022 provides for a statement of strategy and policy which will contain guidelines and principles for the Election Commission to take into account in carrying out its functions

See the orientation project.

The government will also engage the parliamentary party committee and other relevant stakeholders on the draft guidance.