Electoral Commission Chair shares perspective with MPs and Peers at ERS backed event

Thea Ridley-Castle, Research and Policy Officer

Posted on the 11th April 2024

Last month we hosted an APPG for Electoral Reform event at Portcullis House, The future of the electoral system – in conversation with John Pullinger CB, Chair of the Electoral Commission. We were delighted to have John Pullinger there to share his perspective and expertise as the Chair of the Electoral Commission with MPs, peers and their staff. The Electoral Commission is an independent body which oversees our elections and political finance regulations in the UK and work to promote public confidence in our democratic processes and ensure its integrity.

The meeting focused on looking forward to the elections taking place this year and considered the challenges and opportunities for the electoral system.

John Pullinger began the meeting highlighting how the landscape of our elections in 2024 is very different to the last general election landscape in 2019 and it is vital that we sustain confidence in the electoral system in this new era. When noting the differences in the landscape of the UK post-2019 he highlighted the new challenges faced since the last general election including Brexit, COVID-19, cost-of-living crisis, various international crises and the Electoral Act. He also noted the divergence of the electoral agenda across the different nations of the UK raising a constitutional point over the difference of prioritises. Finally, he looked forward to the new risks to the electoral system and democratic process which were on the periphery in 2019 which are now becoming more central and will continue to do so in the coming years, meaning we need to safeguard our democracy now.

John outlined 5 ways in which politicians and civil society can bolster the strength and defence of our democratic system.

Put the Voter 1st

Putting the voter first is an effort to bolster confidence in the electoral system. In order to put the voter first, it is imperative that we do the utmost to engage all people in the democratic process. This means making sure that every person who has the right in to vote in the UK can do so, including:

  1. increasing efforts to inform people about Voter ID requirements,
  2. making sure those not in possession of valid ID are able to access and register for a Voter Authority Certificate,
  3. engaging with the newly enfranchised in the oversea electorate,
  4. working on overcoming obstacles in the implementation of Voter ID such as increasing funding for Councils so they can provide proper spaces for those with disabilities or other requirements to vote securely,
  5. increasing the number of voters on the electoral register to ensure that the most people possible are able to engage in the electoral process.

Support campaigning

Recently there has been an upsurge in abuse, intimidation, threats and violence toward both political and non-party campaigners. Our democracy relies on the continued work of these individuals to uphold its legitimacy as a system which represents its people. If people are put off standing for office / engaging in the campaigns / getting involved in politics due to worries over their safety, both physical and mental, our democratic system is not fit for purpose.

An extension to this is shoring up support for increasing transparency around political party finances; donations from companies and donations from unincorporated associations are cause for concern.

Engage with electoral administrators

Electoral administrators are facing increasing pressures including the logistical and cost implications of implementing the new Voter ID requirements.  It is not enough to have resilient administrators; we need give them the tools to be able to ensure our electoral system thrives and make sure that this experience is consistent across the country.

Simplify and consolidate Electoral Law

Currently Electoral Law is dispersed across various pieces of legislation meaning it is a piecemeal and difficult to navigate. We need to consolidate electoral law, especially with the introduction of another piece of legislation, the Elections Act 2022. Consolidating Law will allow the understanding and application to be simplified.

Recognising the world we now live in

Any reforms to the electoral system need to be couched in the world we live in now and be futureproofed for the next election cycle in 2029/2030, the reforms need to retain and entrench confidence in the electoral system. This means a move towards modernising of the electoral system including more digital approaches such as Automatic Voter Registration.

ERS Members helped make this event happen

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Electoral Reform (APPGER) is supported by the Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Matter. You can help meetings like this happen by becoming a member of the ERS today.

Join the ERS today

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