Overview of the Bill
1 This Bill makes new provision for and amends existing electoral law to ensure that UK elections remain secure, fair, modern, inclusive and transparent.
2 The Bill will allow the Government to meet some of its 2019 manifesto commitments, including to "protect the integrity of our democracy, by introducing identification to vote at polling stations, stopping postal vote harvesting and measures to prevent any foreign interference in elections" and to "make it easier for British expats to vote in Parliamentary elections, and get rid of the arbitrary 15-year limit on their voting rights."
3 The Bill is in seven parts.
4 Part 1 introduces new measures to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process, including: a requirement for voters to show an approved form of photographic identification before collecting their ballot paper to vote at a polling station in a UK parliamentary election in Great Britain; and new safeguards for postal and proxy voting relating to the period for which a person may hold a postal vote, the handling and handing in of postal votes by persons other than the voters to whom they are issued, how many electors a proxy voter may act on behalf of, and extending secrecy provisions to postal and proxy voting. It also clarifies and updates the law on the undue influence of electors, and on assistance available to voters with a disability, and changes the voting system for Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales and directly-elected mayors in England to the Simple Majority voting system (also known as "First Past the Post"). Part 1 further contains provisions about applications relating to electoral registration, applications to vote by post or proxy, and applications for particular kinds of documents such as electoral identity documents. It also introduces the power to remove signature requirements for post or proxy applications and the power to make provisions about unique reference numbers for elections in Northern Ireland.
5 Part 2 removes the 15 year limit on the exercise of voting rights currently placed on British electors living overseas, and makes amendments to the registration process, including how an applicant’s identity and connection to a UK address will be verified. It also lays out the new rules for voting and candidacy eligibility of European Union citizens voting and standing in local elections in Northern Ireland, England, and PCC elections in England and Wales following the UK’s departure from the EU.
6 Part 3 amends current provisions for the Parliamentary accountability of the Electoral Commission, by: introducing a new Strategy and Policy Statement to be approved by Parliament; amending the functions and membership of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission; and amending the Electoral Commission’s powers to expressly prevent them from bringing criminal prosecutions in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, which is to maintain the current position in which the Electoral Commission does not bring prosecutions.
7 Part 4 amends the law about political finance and expenditure in elections, including by clarifying the rules on notional spending, strengthening rules so that all third-party spending is restricted to UK-based entities and eligible Overseas Electors only, and increasing transparency around third-party campaigning. It also introduces a new lower tier of third-party campaigners subject to reduced regulation and joint campaigning rules for political parties and third parties campaigning as part of a plan with a common purpose. It also makes provision for changes to the registration of political parties and prohibiting parties and campaigners from unfairly expanding their spending limits.
8 Part 5 introduces a new disqualification order which a court must impose, unless the court considers it unjust to do so, if a person is convicted of an intimidatory criminal offence motivated by hostility towards a candidate, future candidate, campaigner, substitute or nominee (in Northern Ireland), or holder of a relevant elective office. The effect of a disqualification order is that the person will be disqualified from standing for, being elected to, and holding any relevant elective office for five years.
9 Part 6 introduces a new requirement for digital campaigning material to display a digital imprint, with the name and address of the promoter of the material or any person on behalf of whom the material is being published (and who is not the promoter).
10 Part 7 makes miscellaneous and general provision.