THE UK GOVERNMENT’S ELECTIONS BILL received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, making wide-ranging changes to how elections are run, the way people vote, campaigning, political spending and funding.
Amongst the changes the legislation introduces are:a requirement for voters at polling stations in Great Britain to show photo ID; the extension of imprint rules to digital material; the removal of the 15 year limit on voting rights for British citizens living overseas; and a strategy and policy statement for the Commission.
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “The passing of the Elections Bill brings considerable changes for those delivering, participating and campaigning in elections in the UK. The focus now turns to implementation, and ensuring all those involved in our democratic processes have time to understand and prepare for the new measures. For local authorities which will be required to deliver many of the changes, it will be vital to ensure the necessary funding and resources are provided.
“The UK Government still needs to set out much of the detail, the specifics of which will be central to workability. Implementation of the changes introduced by the Bill will need to be carefully planned and managed, so it is important that the necessary supporting legislation is in place with sufficient time to deliver the system-wide change required.
“The measures will be introduced in stages over the coming years. The Electoral Commission will play a key role in raising public awareness and supporting voters to understand the changes that apply to them, particularly in relation to the introduction of the voter ID requirement at elections in Great Britain from next year. We will also provide the electoral community with advice and guidance on how the new legislation applies.”
Commenting on the introduction of a strategy and policy statement for the Electoral Commission, the spokesperson added: “As the political finance regulator and the body which oversees free and fair elections, the way we work and our decisions must remain independent. This underpins fairness and trust in the electoral system, as well as public and cross party confidence in the Commission.
“We remain concerned about the potential impact of this measure, and look to the formal consultation on the Government’s proposed Statement once that is available.
“All parties have stated during the parliamentary consideration of the Elections Act that the independence of the Electoral Commission is vital to the functioning of a healthy democracy. The Commission will continue to act in an independent and impartial way in order to help maintain public confidence in elections across the UK”
Ahead of the introduction of the voter ID requirement, the Commission is planning a wide reaching public awareness campaign to ensure voters understand the change and to support continued participation in the electoral process. The campaign will aim to highlight the requirement to show ID, help voters understand which forms of ID can be used and, for those without eligible ID, how and when they can apply for the free voter card.
* Source: The Electoral Commission