MPs launch Elections Bill probe
26 July 2021
A new inquiry that will examine the Government’s controversial Elections Bill, part of which would require voters to show ID at polling stations, has been launched by the cross-party Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).
When introducing the proposals to Parliament on 5 July, the Government claimed that they were necessary to protect the integrity of elections. However, they immediately faced criticism from a range of independent organisations arguing that the measures to require voter ID and to restrict the number of voters a proxy could vote on behalf of would make it harder for minority ethnic, working class and older people to vote.
The Bill would also make changes to restrictions on third-party and online campaigning. Currently, campaigners in England not from registered political parties must meet transparency rules if their general election spending breaks £20,000. The new rules would bring this limit down to £10,000, in line with the rest of the UK. However, third party campaigners told PACAC MPs last week that the complexity of meeting transparency requirements could deter interest groups from campaigning at all. The witnesses to the Committee’s ongoing inquiry into the work of the Electoral Commission added that there was a ‘complete lack of consultation’ on the new proposals.
Part of the Bill would see the Government increase its influence over the direction of the Electoral Commission and there are also provisions to curb foreign interference by banning non-voting individuals and organisations based abroad. These aspects will also be examined in the new inquiry.
Other proposals in the Bill, and within the scope of the inquiry, include:
- Reform of registration for postal voting;
- Clarification of the definition of ‘undue influence’ such as deception and intimidation;
- Removal of restrictions on who can accompany people with disabilities to the polls;
- Extending voting rights to some EU Nationals;
- Scrapping the 15-year limit at which Brits overseas lose their right to vote;
- Implementation of digital imprints on online campaign advertising.
Send us your views
Anyone wishing to contribute to the inquiry about the Elections Bill, or on related matters that are overlooked by the Government’s plans, should submit their evidence to the inquiry before 6pm on 31 August 2021.
Committee Chair William Wragg said:
“These proposals make significant changes to the implementation of and potentially participation in elections. It’s natural that they are properly interrogated and claims by the Government that the plans would protect our democracy are tested before implementation. Although few would argue against shoring-up our electoral system in principle, it’s critical to ensure that it is done correctly, that it is fair, and that it is necessary to do so.”
Image: Parliamentary copyright