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Commissions to combine in reviewing election law

11 December 2012

The three UK Law Commissions are to conduct a joint review of UK electoral law, it was cnfirrmed today.

Scottish ministers have joined with their UK counterparts in requesting the Scottish Law Commission to take part in the exercise, which will focus on technical electoral administration law, including the conduct of referenda, rather than matters such as voting systems, franchise and electoral boundaries.

Any consultation paper with proposals for reform will not be issued until after the independence referendum in autumn 2014.

The go-ahead follows a scoping exercise conducted earlier this year, in which respondents to a public consultation agreed that the aims should be to:

  • review the legislative framework for electoral law to provide a clear, principled and consistent structure for setting out electoral law;
  • review electoral administration law to rationalise, simplify and modernise the rules governing the conduct of all elections, so as to reduce the risk of mistakes; 
  • identify where the electoral process – and the electorate – would benefit from rules that are more specific and clear, and 
  • recommend areas where existing rules could be less prescriptive and more flexible to reduce the complexity and volume of laws, and reflect the best interests of voters.

A report on the exercise has been published by the Law Commission for England & Wales (click here to access).


Electoral law in the UK is currently spread across 25 major statutes, and has become increasingly complex and fragmented. In addition, recent years have seen a steady increase in the numbers and types of election, each with its own set of rules and systems. Combining different types into one electoral event introduces yet more layers of electoral law.

The reform will also consider the circumstances under which electoral administration might be
challenged. The current legalistic system of challenge leaves little room for investigating, and
drawing conclusions from, a complaint about how an election was run if the outcome of the election was not affected.

Lady Clark of Calton, chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, said: “We very much welcome this opportunity to work with our partner Law Commissions to bring much-needed clarity to electoral law.

"Electoral law across the UK continues to become more complex, presenting challenges to
administrators, candidates and voters. It must be rationalised and modernised if we are to preserve the confidence of the electorate in the process by which our democratic representatives are chosen."

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