Have your say on the Elections Bill
13 September 2021
Do you have relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Elections Bill 2021-22, which is currently passing through Parliament?
If so, you can submit your views in writing to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee which is going to consider this Bill.
The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee is expected to be on Wednesday 15 September. Written evidence can now be sent in to the Public Bill Committee. The Committee is scheduled to report by Wednesday 3 November. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Wednesday 3 November. You are strongly advised to submit your written evidence as soon as possible. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration.
Aims of the Bill
The Bill would make various changes to election law and the Explanatory Notes confirm these focus on the Government’s priorities “that UK elections remain secure, fair, modern, inclusive and transparent”.
The main measures in the Bill are as follows:
One of the proposed measures in the Bill is that voters must show photo ID before getting a ballot paper in a polling station. This would affect UK parliamentary elections and local elections in England.
The Government argues this will improve the integrity of elections and prevent someone’s vote from being stolen – the electoral offence of personation. It proposes a broad range of photo ID will be allowed, including a free voter card available to those without any other form of ID.
The Bill also makes other changes to the administration of elections aimed at improving the security of postal and proxy voting and to improve the accessibility of elections for disabled voters.
Franchise changes for overseas voters and EU citizens
The Bill makes two important changes to the eligibility to vote.
The first is for overseas voters –British citizens living overseas that are registered to vote in UK parliamentary elections. Currently, overseas voters can only register to vote for up to 15 years after they leave and if they were registered to vote before they left. The new rules will remove the time limit, introducing the so-called ‘votes for life’ Conservative manifesto pledge.
The second important change is for EU citizens living in the UK. Now the UK has left the EU, the Government is proposing to alter EU citizens’ right to vote in local elections in England and Northern Ireland.
EU citizens coming to live in the UK after 31 December 2020 will only be able to vote in local elections if the UK has a reciprocal voting agreement with their home country. Currently Spain, Portugal, Poland and Luxembourg have agreed reciprocal voting treaties.
Scotland and Wales have already changed their local voting to allow all legally resident foreigners to vote in local and devolved elections.
A sanction for intimidation
The Bill introduces a new electoral sanction for those guilty of intimidating a candidate or campaigner. This follows concerns about increasing levels of abuse, threats or intimidation.
The sanction will apply if someone is convicted of one of the offences of an intimidatory nature that are listed in the Bill. This is only if the offence is committed because the victim was a candidate or campaigner. Someone convicted may be served a disqualification order that prevents them from standing for, being elected to, or holding certain elective offices for five years.
The Government says this would act as a deterrent and that those convicted should not be permitted to participate in the democratic process they tried to undermine.
Digital imprints on campaign material
An ‘imprint’ is information added to campaign material during an election or a referendum that tells potential voters about who produced the material.
Currently only printed campaign material requires an imprint, except in Scotland, where the rules have already been changed to include digital material too.
The Bill would extend imprints to digital campaign material. This will help voters know who is paying for what they see. It will also apply to some unpaid material if it is produced by a regulated party or campaigner. The imprint would be on the original material and so people sharing it online would not normally need to do anything.
The Electoral Commission’s strategic priorities
The Bill would give the Government power to set the Electoral Commission’s strategic priorities. It would also give the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission the power to assess compliance by the Commission.
The Bill also prohibits the Commission from being able to bring prosecutions itself.
Campaign finance and political parties
The Bill makes some changes to the registration requirements for political parties and third-party campaigners. These aim to tighten the rules that prevent foreign money being used in campaigning.
It also amends legislation relating to ‘notional expenditure’ – that is goods and services received by candidates at a discount. This follows a 2018 court ruling that led to concerns that candidates and their agents could be liable for spending they were unaware of or not involved in but were seen to have benefitted from.
Follow the progress of the Elections Bill
The Elections Bill 2021–22 was introduced to the House of Commons on 5 July 2021. This Bill was debated at second reading on Tuesday 7 September 2021 and has now been sent to a Public Bill Committee which will scrutinise the Bill line by line and is expected to report to the House by Wednesday 3 November 2021.
- Bills before Parliament: Elections Bill 2021–22
- Read Explanatory Notes: Elections Bill 2021–22
- House of Commons Library Briefing Paper
Oral evidence sessions are expected to be held on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 September.
Guidance on submitting written evidence
Deadline for written evidence submissions
The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee is expected to be on Wednesday 15 September. Written evidence can now be sent in to the Public Bill Committee. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration and possibly reflect it in an amendment. The order in which amendments are taken in Committee will be available in due course under Selection of Amendments on the Bill documents pages. Once the Committee has dealt with an amendment it will not revisit it.
The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee is expected to be Wednesday 15 September and the Committee is scheduled to report by Wednesday 3 November. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Wednesday 3 November. You are strongly advised to submit your written evidence as soon as possible.
Your submission should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Further guidance on submitting written evidence can be found here.
Image: Parliamentary Copyright