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|Headquarters||3 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8YZ|
|Employees||132 (July 2019)|
|Annual budget||£18.4 million (estimate 2019-20)|
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The Electoral Commission is the election commission of the United Kingdom. It is an independent body, created in 2001 as a result of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. It regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run.
The Electoral Commission was created following a recommendation by the fifth report of the Committee on Standards in 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.
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 are nominated by political parties.
There was widespread controversy surrounding the 2010 UK general electionincluding allegations of fraudulent postal voting, polling stations being unprepared for an evening surge of voters, policing of voters protesting at one polling station, and only enough ballot papers for 80% of voters. The Electoral Commission was also criticized for its handling of the election.
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.
The Commission registers political parties and regulates party compliance. The Commission maintains the registers of political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
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.
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.
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).
The Electoral Commission was responsible for recommending which regions were allocated how many of the 73 seats that the United Kingdom held at the European Parliament. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.
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.
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:
To reflect the views of stakeholders and the distinctive procedures and practices in the countries of the United Kingdom there are devolved electoral commissions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Since February 2007 the Commission has had regional offices across England in the South West, Eastern and South East, London, Midlands, and North of England regions.
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 questions on behalf of the Commission. The Member who takes questions for the Speaker's Committee is Bridget Phillipson.
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).
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.
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On June 5, 2015 Lord Nigel Vinson criticized the Electoral Commission for its failure to remain politically partisan and called for it to be reformed.
On September 14, 2018 whilst the British High Court of Justice agreed that the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum had broken the law on spending limits, it also ruled that the Electoral Commission had misinterpreted the rules prior to the referendum taking place in advice it gave to the Vote Leave campaign, allowing them to break the law without even being aware. Anti-Brexit campaigner Lord Adonis criticized the commission's incompetence, and said that "a rather more fit and proper body" should be in charge of any future referendums that might take place.
On May 13, 2020 during Prime Minister's Questions, Conservative MP Peter Bone attacked the Electoral Commission for its investigations into four separate members of pro-Leave campaigns, whom were all found innocent of any wrongdoing. He called the commission "politically corrupt, totally biased and morally bankrupt". Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded by saying that he had hoped "all those who spent so much time and energy drawing attention to their supposed guilt would spend just as long drawing attention to their genuine innocence".
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved, unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in the Holyrood area of the capital city, Edinburgh, it is frequently referred to by the metonym Holyrood.
Referendums in the United Kingdom are occasionally held at a national, regional or local level. National referendums can be permitted by an Act of Parliament and regulated through the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, but they are by tradition extremely rare due to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty meaning that they cannot be constitutionally binding on either the Government or Parliament, although they usually have a persuasive political effect.
The Scottish referendum of 1979 was a post-legislative referendum to decide whether there was a sufficient support for a Scottish Assembly proposed in the Scotland Act 1978 among the Scottish electorate. This was an act to create a devolved deliberative assembly for Scotland. An amendment to the Act stipulated that it would be repealed if less than 40% of the total electorate voted "Yes" in the referendum. The result was that 51.6% supported the proposal, but with a turnout of 64%, this represented only 32.9% of the registered electorate. The Act was subsequently repealed. A second referendum to create a devolved legislature in Scotland was held in 1997 under a newly elected Labour government, which led to the enactment of the Scotland Act 1998 and the creation of a devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999.
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that sets out how political parties, elections and referendums are to be regulated in the United Kingdom. It formed an important part of the constitutional reform programme implemented by the 1997 Labour Government, building on the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 which was passed two years earlier.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is the independent federal agency in charge of organising, conducting and supervising federal elections, by-elections and referendums.
Election law is a discipline falling at the juncture of constitutional law and political science. It researches "the politics of law and the law of politics". The conceptual knowledge behind election law focuses on who votes, when that person can vote, and the construction behind the tabulated totals.
Regular elections in Croatia are mandated by the Constitution and legislation enacted by Parliament. The presidency, Parliament, county prefects and assemblies, city and town mayors, and city and municipal councils are all elective offices. Since 1990, five presidential elections have been held. During the same period, nine parliamentary elections were also held. In addition, there were six nationwide local elections. Croatia has held two elections to elect 11 members of the European Parliament following its accession to the EU on 1 July 2013.
Elections in Bhutan are conducted at national (Parliamentary) and local levels. Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 and over, and under applicable election laws. In national elections, political party participation is mainly restricted to the lower house of Parliament, and by extension, to the executive nominated by its majority.
Elections in Lithuania, are held to select members of the parliament, the president, members of the municipal councils and mayors, as well as delegates to the European Parliament. Lithuanian citizens can also vote in mandatory or consultative referendums.
The electoral roll is a list of persons who are eligible to vote in a particular electoral district and who are registered to vote, if required in a particular jurisdiction. An electoral roll has a number of functions, especially to streamline voting on election day. Voter registration is also used to combat electoral fraud by enabling authorities to verify an applicant's identity and entitlement to a vote, and to ensure a person doesn't vote multiple times. In jurisdictions where voting is compulsory, the electoral roll is used to indicate who has failed to vote. Most jurisdictions maintain permanent electoral rolls while some jurisdictions compile new electoral rolls before each election. In some jurisdictions, people to be selected for jury or other civil duties are chosen from an electoral roll.
Electors must be on the electoral register in order to vote in elections and referendums in the UK. Electoral registration officers within local authorities have a duty to compile and maintain accurate electoral registers.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is a nominally independent organisation which controls elections at all levels of Zimbabwe politics. It was established by an Act of the Parliament in 2004, with influence from its predecessor, the Electoral Supervisory Commission as well as the Southern African Development Community.
The Election Commission of Bangladesh, abbreviated and publicly referred to as EC, is an independent constitutional body that operates the legal functions of election laws in Bangladesh.
Political funding in the United Kingdom has been a source of controversy for many years. Political parties in the UK may be funded through membership fees, party donations or through state funding, the latter of which is reserved for administrative costs. The general restrictions in the UK were held in Bowman v United Kingdom to be fully compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, article 10.
There are five types of elections in the United Kingdom: elections to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, elections to devolved parliaments and assemblies, local elections, mayoral elections and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Within each of those categories, there may also be by-elections. Elections are held on Election Day, which is conventionally a Thursday. Since the passing of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 for general elections, all five types of elections are held after fixed periods, though early elections to parliament and the devolved assemblies and parliaments can occur in certain situations. The five electoral systems used are: the single member plurality system (first-past-the-post), the multi-member plurality system, the single transferable vote, the additional member system and the supplementary vote.
The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011(c. 1) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made provision for the holding of a referendum on whether to introduce the Alternative Vote system in all future general elections to the UK Parliament and also made provision on the number and size of Parliamentary Constituencies. The Bill for the Act was introduced to the House of Commons on 22 July 2010 and passed third reading on 2 November by 321 votes to 264. The House of Lords passed the Bill, with amendments, on 14 February 2011, and after some compromises between the two Houses on amendments, it received Royal Assent on 16 February.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom introduced in July 2013. The Bill was sponsored by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It was often referred to as "The Lobbying Bill" for short. It passed all Parliamentary stages, and received Royal Assent on 30 January 2014.
The European Union Referendum Act 2015 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made legal provision for a consultative referendum to be held in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar, on whether it should remain a member state of the European Union or leave it. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary on 28 May 2015. Two weeks later, the second reading of the Bill was supported by MPs from all parties except the SNP; the Bill subsequently passed on its third reading in the Commons on 7 September 2015. It was approved by the House of Lords on 14 December 2015, and given Royal Assent on 17 December 2015. The Act came partly into force on the same day and came into full legal force on 1 February 2016.
The European Union (Referendum) Act 2016 is an Act of the Gibraltar Parliament, which implements the United Kingdom's European Union Referendum Act 2015 in Gibraltar. It was the first time a referendum has been held in Gibraltar on the issue of continued EU membership since the territory joined along with the United Kingdom in 1973 and was the first time that a British Overseas Territory had participated in a UK-wide referendum. The Act commenced on 26 January 2016, and received assent from the Governor of Gibraltar on 28 January 2016.
Several allegations of unlawful campaigning in the 2016 EU referendum have been made. Some allegations were dismissed by the investigating bodies, but in other cases wrongdoing was established, leading to the imposition of penalties. Sanctions have included the levying of the maximum fine possible on Facebook for breaches of data privacy. Calls for changes in UK electoral law have been made and the standing of the EU referendum result has been challenged.