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Consultation to be held on ‘fragmented’ electoral law

Law Commission proposes that laws governing elections should be rationalised into a single framework

9 December 2014

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The Law Commissions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have opened a consultation to set out provisional proposals for reforming the law governing elections and referendums across the UK.

Electoral law in the UK is currently spread across 25 major statutes and has become increasingly complex to use. Therefore, the Law Commissions are seeking views on potential reforms that will modernise and rationalise electoral law.

Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner for public law, who is leading the project for the Law Commission of England and Wales, said: "It is clear that electoral law is in need of reform. Inconsistencies and ambiguities risk undermining the credibility of our electoral process. The law must be simplified, modernised and rationalised so that it can be more easily understood and used by administrators and candidates, and public confidence in electoral administration can be strengthened."

Bob Posner, legal counsel for the Electoral Commission, welcomed the announcement: "Electoral law in the UK is voluminous, fragmented and unnecessarily complex. It is in need of modernisation and it is not simply enough to consolidate what is already there; it also needs simplifying. This is an important piece of work and we encourage everyone that cares about how our elections are run to respond."

The joint consultation will look at the management and oversight of elections, notice of elections and the polling process, as well as registration of electors, management of postal voting applications, as well as how and when an election can be challenged.

The Commissions' provisional proposals are that the laws governing elections should be rationalised into a single, consistent legislative framework governing all elections, and that electoral laws should be consistent across all types of election.

Chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, Lord Pentland, commented: "The Scottish Law Commission entirely agrees that it has become essential for electoral law throughout the UK to be streamlined and put into a modern, accessible and user-friendly format, which is fit for the 21st century. We have, therefore, been delighted to participate fully in this important law reform project. We look forward greatly to receiving a wide range of responses to the consultation exercise."

The Northern Ireland Law Commissioner leading on the project, Dr Venkat Iyer, added: "UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections, as well as UK-wide referendums, are subject to rules across jurisdictional borders. We are very pleased to be conducting this timely review in partnership with our colleagues in the Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission."

The consultation is open until 31 March 2015.


John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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