Electoral Regulation: Campaigners call for new powers to protect our democracy from online threats

Posted on the 27th August 2020

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 27 August 2020.
  • Contact Jon Narcross, mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07794728820 for interviews, more information.
  • Full CSPL Enquiry submission: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/review-of-electoral-regulation-response-to-cspl/

The Electoral Reform Society has called for increased powers for the Electoral Commission to ensure transparency, fairness and accountability in online campaigning in its submission to a parliamentary review on electoral regulation. 

In response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review of electoral regulation, the UK’s leading democracy campaigners have called for increased powers for the Electoral Commission calling the current regulations ‘out of date and inadequate’ for the challenges of modern political campaigning.

The Society have called for electoral regulation, and particularly political finance, to be based on the principles of transparency, fairness and accountability and for their interpretation, an application should be updated to account for the increase in online political campaigns.

Noting the enhanced resources and powers granted to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as an example of how a regulator can keep pace with changes brought by online campaigning, the Society writes ‘It is striking that we now have a regulator with substantial powers to protect data privacy, but no such powers have been granted to the regulator entrusted with protecting our democracy.’

The ERS called for increased civil sanction powers for the Commission and closure of electoral loopholes and ‘enforcement gaps’ that remain too easily exploitable under the current system. This includes giving the Commission responsibility for enforcing both candidate and party/campaigner finance laws.

The ERS submission also welcomed the government’s recent proposals on extending imprints to online election material as a ‘welcome first step’ towards enhancing transparency but called on the government to set out a clear timeline for implementation’ urging the introduction of the new imprints regime as a ‘matter of urgency’.

The full submission is available here. Quotes can be taken from the report as a ‘spokesperson for the Electoral Reform Society’.


Notes to Editors

In October 2019 the ERS published the ‘Loophole List’ of just some of the gaps in Britain’s political campaign rules: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/report-campaign-loopholes-put-free-and-fair-elections-under-threat/

There have been several consultations on online regulations already – and a long-term consensus for reform. See the ERS’ report ‘Reining in the Wild West’.

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