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Jonathan Fenton-Harvey

Business and International Editor, Solicitors Journal

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Although some may see politics as separate from the legal world, the essential role of legal regulations in ensuring electoral and political integrity is now more important than ever

Democracy and legal integrity

Foreword
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Democracy and legal integrity

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The foreword for the June 2024 volume

To say 2024 could be a pivotal year for democracy might actually be an understatement. This year, roughly half of the world's population are heading to the polls, including the European Parliament elections, the UK, the US, and India. Although some may see politics as separate from the legal world, the essential role of legal regulations in ensuring electoral and political integrity is now more important than ever.

Regulatory frameworks

Legal professionals may understand, better than others, that robust regulatory frameworks are the bedrock of any democratic election. In the European Union, for instance, the European Parliament elections scheduled from June 6 to June 9 will see 720 MEPs elected by around 400 million eligible voters. Each member state has its own set of rules governing these elections, aiming to ensure commitment to democratic principles within a larger bloc.

Similarly, in India, the world's largest democracy, the general elections in April and May, held stringent regulations to manage the massive electoral process. In India, there is ongoing debate about the use of technology in elections and the regulations needed to ensure its safe and fair implementation.

Compliance and legal frameworks

One of the primary roles of legal professionals during elections is to ensure compliance with these regulations. This includes everything from advising political campaigns on legal matters to monitoring the electoral process for any irregularities. In the UK, the next general election is expected by January 2025, and the role of solicitors in ensuring that laws are followed will be crucial.

With speculation surrounding the when the UK’s election will occur, regulatory issues may likely play a part. On p13, Diana Baxtar highlights the controversy surrounding the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024, which is not only a key part of UK political discourse, but has significant legal ramifications, highlighting the importance of legal frameworks.

Similarly, in the US, where the presidential elections will dominate the news in November, lawyers will be busy ensuring adherence to both state and federal election laws, addressing any disputes that arise, and safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process.

Regulatory changes

Election laws are constantly evolving to address new challenges. In the EU, recent discussions have focused on increasing voter turnout, particularly among younger demographics.

Modern elections certainly face numerous challenges, from misinformation to cybersecurity threats. Regulations are being updated to tackle these issues head-on. For example, the European Union is actively working to counter disinformation campaigns that could affect voter perception and election outcomes. In the US, legal frameworks are being strengthened to protect against foreign interference and ensure the security of voting systems.

Comparing electoral regulations across different countries can provide valuable insights. For instance, while the US has a highly decentralised electoral system with varying rules across states, the EU operates under a more unified framework despite its member states' diverse regulations. Case studies from recent elections in India and the EU can highlight how effective regulations have been in maintaining electoral integrity and resolving disputes.

To further understand the importance of legal regulations and their broader impact, and our June 2024 covers this in-depth. On p40 James Castro-Edwards examines the EU AI Act set to come into force this summer, comparing it with the UK's approach to AI regulation. This piece highlights the evolving nature of regulations in response to technological advancements and their legal implications.


Also, in the field of cross-border legal cooperation, on p72, Richard Field analyses the EU Commission’s decision to maintain Guernsey’s data protection adequacy, exploring its impact on Guernsey’s economy and the broader regulatory landscape.