Electoral law ‘not fit for purpose’ says law commission

PUBLISHED: 10:43 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:43 17 March 2020

A count at the 2019 general election. Photograph: Polly Hancock.

A count at the 2019 general election. Photograph: Polly Hancock.

Archant

Britain’s electoral laws are ‘out-dated, confusing and no longer fit for purpose’, according to the Law Commission.

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The commission has published a number of reforms aimed at modernising the Victorian-era laws and ensuring that “elections are fit for purpose in the 21st century”.

Among their proposed reforms are responses to technological developments, such as the labelling of online political adverts to show who paid for them.

Other measures include giving presiding officers the ability to cancel polls in the wake of significant terror or weather events and introducing a single set of nomination papers for candidates.

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However perhaps the biggest proposed change is to rationalise the current electoral law system from 25 separate statutes into a “single, consistent legislative framework”.

The commission said the laws surrounding elections - in the Representation of the People Act of 1983 - originate in Victorian-era legislation.

Public Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines said: “Elections are fundamental to democracy yet the laws governing them are no longer fit for purpose.

“If left as they are, there is a very real risk of the electoral process losing credibility, which could be catastrophic.

“Our reforms will simplify, modernise and rationalise the law. This will make it easier to amend legislation so elections are able to overcome future challenges, and help to maintain confidence in the electoral system.”

The recommendations will be given to the Cabinet Office and Scottish Ministers for approval.

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