Electoral Commission

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The Electoral Commission is an independent body, set up in 2001 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run.

The Electoral Commission was created following a recommendation by the fifth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.


The Commission's mandate was set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), and ranges from the regulation of political donations and expenditure by political and third parties through to promoting greater participation in the electoral process. The Electoral Administration Act 2006 required local authorities to review all polling stations, and to provide a report on the reviews to the Electoral Commission.

The Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 granted the Electoral Commission a variety of new supervisory and investigatory powers. It fills significant gaps in the commission's current powers, the Act also provides a new range of flexible civil sanctions, both financial and non-financial are currently proposed to extend to regulated donees as well as political parties.

The Act also permitted the introduction of individual electoral registration in Great Britain and made changes to the structure of the Electoral Commission, including allowing for the appointment of four new electoral commissioners who will be nominated by political parties.

CEO and Commissioners

  • Bob Posner, formerly Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, was appointed Chief Executive Officer in April 2019 having was interim since January 2019 following the departure of Claire Bassett.[1]
  • Sir John Holmes was appointed by the Speaker's Committee in January 2017 as the third chair of the Electoral Commission. Sir John was previously a senior civil servant and diplomat.
  • Dame Sue Bruce
  • Anna Carragher
  • Sarah Chambers
  • Alasdair Morgan
  • Professor Dame Elan Closs Stephens CBE
  • Rob Vincent CBE
  • Lord Gilbert of Panteg
  • Joan Walley[2]


There was widespread criticism of the 2010 UK General Election[3][4] including allegations of fraudulent postal voting, polling stations being unprepared for an evening surge of voters,[5] policing of voters protesting at one polling station,[6] and only enough ballot papers for 80% of voters.[7] The Electoral Commission was also criticised for its handling of the Election.[8]

Challenging a result

To challenge an election you must apply to the Election Petitions Office. This is called issuing an election petition.

You’ll need to send:

  • an election petition
  • an application to pay ‘security for costs’

Send your petition and your application to pay ‘security for costs’ to the Election Petitions Office, along with your fees. The fees are:

  • £528 to issue a petition
  • £100 to apply for ‘security for costs’

Make your cheque or postal order payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’.

The Election Petitions Office must receive your petition by the last day you’re allowed to apply (usually within 21 days).[9]

Thought experiment

On 14 August 2020, Lewis Goodall of BBC Newsnight tweeted:

Thought experiment: there is to be a general election. Election is cancelled because of pandemic. But Electoral Commission says fear not, we have an algorithm. It takes into account the result of the last three general elections, opinion polling, population change. Here is the result.[10]

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