Electoral Commission (United Kingdom)

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The Electoral Commission
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Electoral Commission's logo
Agency overview
Formed2001
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
Headquarters3 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8YZ
Employees156 (March 2009)
Annual budget£23.5 million (estimate 2009-10)
Website electoralcommission.org.uk
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The Electoral Commission is the election commission of the United Kingdom. It is an independent body, set up in 2001 by the British Parliament. It regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run.

An election commission is a body charged with overseeing the implementation of election procedures. The formal names of election commissions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and may be styled an electoral commission, a central or state election commission, an election board, an electoral council or an electoral court. Election commissions can be independent, mixed, judicial or executive. They may also be responsible for electoral boundary delimitation. In federations there may be a separate body for each subnational government. The election commission has a duty to perform election related activities in an orderly manner. For election related problems, Election Commission is responsible.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The UK's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Parliament of the United Kingdom Supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.

Contents

History

The Electoral Commission was created following a recommendation by the fifth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is an advisory non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom Government, established in 1994 to advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards of public life.

The Commission's mandate was set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), and ranges from the regulation of political donations and expenditure by political and third parties through to promoting greater participation in the electoral process. The Electoral Administration Act 2006 required local authorities to review all polling stations, and to provide a report on the reviews to the Electoral Commission.

The Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 granted the Electoral Commission a variety of new supervisory and investigatory powers. It fills significant gaps in the commission's current powers, the Act also provides a new range of flexible civil sanctions, both financial and non-financial are currently proposed to extend to regulated donees as well as political parties.

Political Parties and Elections Act 2009

The Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It implemented the proposals contained in the Government White Paper on "Party Finance and Expenditure in the United Kingdom" published on 16 June 2008.

The Act also permitted the introduction of individual electoral registration in Great Britain and made changes to the structure of the Electoral Commission, including allowing for the appointment of four new electoral commissioners who will be nominated by political parties.

The Electoral Commission faced widespread criticism for the handling of the 2010 UK general election, [1] [2] [3] including allegations of fraudulent postal voting, [2] polling stations being unprepared for an evening surge of voters, [4] policing of voters protesting at one polling station, [4] [5] and only enough ballot papers for 80% of voters. [6]

2010 United Kingdom general election election of members to the House of Commons in 2010

The 2010 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 6 May 2010, with 45,597,461 registered voters entitled to vote to elect members to the House of Commons. The election took place in 650 constituencies across the United Kingdom under the first-past-the-post system. None of the parties achieved the 326 seats needed for an overall majority. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the largest number of votes and seats, but still fell 20 seats short. This resulted in a hung parliament where no party was able to command a majority in the House of Commons. This was only the second general election since the Second World War to return a hung parliament, the first being the February 1974 election. Unlike in 1974, the potential for a hung parliament had this time been widely considered and predicted, and both the country and politicians were better prepared for the constitutional process that would follow such a result. The coalition government that was subsequently formed was the first coalition in British history to eventuate directly from an election outcome. The hung parliament came about in spite of the Conservatives managing both a higher vote total and higher share of the vote than the previous Labour government had done in 2005, when it secured a comfortable majority.

Responsibilities and objectives

Integrity and transparency of party election finance

As the regulator of political party funding in the UK, the Commission's role is to ensure the integrity and transparency of party and election finance.

Political parties must submit annual statements of accounts, detailing income and expenditure, to the Electoral Commission. The Commission publishes these on its website. Political parties and regulated donees are required to submit reports of all donations they receive to the Commission. The Commission maintains a publicly available and searchable register of these donations on its website.

At general elections to the UK Parliament, EU Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly political parties are required to submit campaign spending returns to the Electoral Commission.

The Commission may impose financial civil penalties on political parties and their accounting units if they fail to submit donation and loans returns, campaign spending return or statements of account. The Commission also has the power to seek forfeiture of impermissible donations accepted by political parties.

Registering political parties

The Commission registers political parties and regulates party compliance. The Commission maintains the registers of political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. [7]

Electoral registers and the electoral registration process

The commission produces guidance and gives advice on electoral registration to electoral registration officers in Great Britain. The commission has published performance standards for electoral registration in Great Britain. Electoral registration officers are required to report against these standards and the commission will make this information publicly available.

In the United Kingdom, an electoral registration officer (ERO) is a person who has the statutory duty to compile and maintain the electoral roll. Any expenses incurred by an electoral registration officer in the performance of his/her functions are paid by the local authority which made the appointment, except in Northern Ireland, where the Chief Electoral Officer's expenses are covered by the Northern Ireland Office.

Great Britain island in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

As part of this work, the commission runs a series of public awareness campaigns ahead of elections and throughout the year to encourage people to register to vote. These focus on audiences that research indicates are less likely to be on the electoral register, including recent home-movers, students and UK citizens living overseas.

Well-run elections and referendums

The commission produces guidance and gives advice on electoral administration to returning officers and electoral administrators in Great Britain. The Commission has set performance standards for returning officers and referendum counting officers in Great Britain. These standards do not apply to local government elections in Scotland as they are a devolved matter. The Commission has a statutory duty to produce reports on the administration of certain elections (for example UK Parliamentary general elections) and may be asked to report on other types of election (such as local government elections).

EU seat distribution

The commission is responsible for recommending which regions are allocated how many of the 73 seats that the United Kingdom holds at the European Parliament.

Referendum responsibilities

The Electoral Commission has a number of responsibilities in relation to referendums. These include:

As of 2017 the Electoral Commission has to date overseen the holding of two UK-wide referendums, the first was the 2011 AV Referendum and the second and most notable was the 2016 EU Referendum, on both occasions the then chair of the Electoral Commission Jenny Watson acted as the appointed Chief Counting Officer. The commission also oversaw the 2004 North East England Devolution Referendum, the 2011 Welsh Devolution Referendum and also the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. The commission has no legal position in the legislation concerning referendums proposed by the devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations.

Organisation

Commissioners and Chief Executive

From 1 October 2010, additional Commissioners serve on a part-time basis who are nominated by the leaders of political parties, scrutinised by the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission and approved by the House of Commons by means of an Address to the Queen requesting their appointment. Those nominated by the three largest parties serve terms of four years, while the Commissioner nominated by a smaller party serves for a two-year term. The appointments of nominated Commissioners are renewable once. These current Commissioners are:

National commissions

To reflect the views of stakeholders and the distinctive procedures and practices in the countries of the United Kingdom there are separate electoral commissions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

English regional offices

Since February 2007 the commission has also had regional offices across England in the South West, Eastern and South East, London, Midlands, and North of England regions.

Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission is answerable to Parliament via the Speaker's Committee (established by PPERA 2000). The Commission must submit an annual estimate of income and expenditure to the Committee. The Committee, made up of Members of Parliament, is responsible for answering Parliamentary Questions on behalf of the Commission. The Member who takes questions for the Speaker's Committee is Bridget Phillipson.

Parliamentary Parties Panels (PPP)

The PPP is composed of representatives from all UK parliamentary political parties with two or more sitting MPs. The PPP was established by PPERA and meets quarterly to submit views to the Commission on matters affecting political parties.

There are equivalent non-statutory bodies for the devolved legislatures in Scotland (Scottish Parliament Political Parties Panel), Wales (Wales Political Parties Panel) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Assembly Parties Panel).

Publications

The commission conducts a wide variety of research into electoral administration, electoral registration and the integrity and transparency of party finance, and a variety of guidance materials for political parties, regulated donees and electoral administrators.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 election statute in the United Kingdom

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References

  1. "Turned-away voters told to demand rerun". Times Online. 9 May 2010. Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Watchdog launches inquiry into chaos at polling stations". London: The Independent. 8 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  3. McKinstry, Leo (4 May 2010). "Postal passport to ballot frauds: A farce that shames our democracy". London: Mail Online. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  4. 1 2 "Election 2010: Voters' frustrations at polling problems". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  5. Porter, Henry (8 May 2010). "Is this really the end of Punch and Judy politics?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  6. "'Astronomical turnout' blamed for ballot papers running out in Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. 6 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  7. "Introduction to registering a political party" (PDF). Electoral Commission. 1 January 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  8. https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/our-work/who-we-are/the-commissioners/joan-walley