Electoral Law

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

We published our interim report on 4 February 2016. We are awaiting the Government's response, after which we will decide with Government whether to pursue a full law reform project.

We published a joint interim report on 4 February 2016.  The three Law Commissions are recommending that the process for challenging elections should be modernised, making it easier for parties to understand and use, and that judges be given the power, in appropriate cases, to limit the potential costs for challengers. They also recommend that existing electoral offences should be updated and made easier for the electorate, officials and prosecutors to understand, and that the maximum sentence for serious electoral offences be increased to ten years.


Electoral law in the UK has grown complex, voluminous, and fragmented, with many statutes and secondary legislation governing a long list of elections and referendums. The twin aims of the project are to ensure, first, that electoral laws are presented within a rational, modern legislative framework, governing all elections and referendums under statute; and second, that the law governing the conduct of elections and referendums is modern, simple, and fit for purpose.

The project

This project is split into three phases, with review points between phases. The first phase, a scoping exercise including a consultation which ended on 17 September 2012, was completed with the publication of our scoping report on 11 December 2012.

The second phase involved formulating law reform proposals.  Owing to the UK wide nature of electoral law, this phase was conducted jointly with the Scottish Law Commission and the Northern Ireland Law Commission.

Next steps

Following the publication of our joint interim report, there will then be a further review point.

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Public law


Nicholas Paines QC