Electoral law - an overview

Some of the content on these pages are under review and will be updated shortly.

The legislative framework

There are many elements to electoral law. For example, there are rules about who can vote (known as the franchise) and who can stand for elections; rules governing the conduct of elections such as how campaigns are organised, funded and conducted by candidates and their supporters; rules governing the questioning of elections, electoral offences and the consequences and penalties of these.

The current law which governs these spans many statutes and can be found in both primary and secondary legislation although the principal Act in this area is the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Certain elections may be combined with other elections or referendums by applying the statutory provisions and rules in a modified form (generally set out in secondary legislation) for the particular purpose.

Persons involved in an election

There are many roles which contribute to the running of an election or the holding of a referendum such as returning officers and electoral registration officers. In addition, the Electoral Commission is an independent body that regulates elections in the UK, promotes voter awareness and works to build confidence in the electoral process.

Future reforms

The Law Commission of England and Wales, the Scottish Law Commission and the Northern Ireland Law Commission published an interim review into Electoral Law in 2016. They concluded that this area of law had become increasingly complex and fragmented and that much of the law is rooted in 19th Century language and practice and recommended reforms to it.  

Earlier this year, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales introduced the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill to the Assembly which if passed by the Assembly would introduce certain reforms to the National Assembly’s electoral arrangements.

Published on
15 March 2021
Last updated
18 June 2021