A new report from the Electoral Commission recommends widespread reforms to the rules around standing for election including (to my pleasant surprise given the failures of my previous efforts to persuade them on this point) the obscure ‘occupying as owner or tenant’ qualification to stand in local elections.
To summarise brutally briefly the legal problem with that qualification is that no-one really knows exactly what it means* and in the past the Electoral Commission has repeatedly ducked requests to set out clearly what it thinks the rule means. Even its guides to candidates on whether or not they are qualified to stand have studiously avoided giving clear advice on this point.
Now the Electoral Commission wants the wording of this reviewed as part of a more general clarification and update to the complicated words, sentences and clauses that exist in some profusion for qualifications and disqualifications. Looks like it was worth me raising the point yet again in this consultation.
Also very welcome is the idea that “the law is changed so that voters, voting in person in polling stations (and where practical those voting by post), are informed that a candidate had either been disqualified or no longer wants to be considered for election but has not withdrawn their candidature within the time allowed”. It isn’t often that a candidate calls it quits too late to withdraw formally but when they do, it makes the election a little farcical.
More headline-catching is the resurrection of the idea that deposits should be scrapped and instead the number of signatures required for nomination to be reviewed (with the implication that they should be increased where being able to stand also brings benefits like a freepost mailing).
Amongst the issues considered but rejected, of which you can read more in the full report below, were switching away from listing candidates in alphabetic order on ballot papers (see p.12-13 on their reasoning) and also adding a ‘none of the above’ option to ballot papers (see p.13 as to why the Commission rejected that).
* Or rather those who think they do have missed the details of its wording which leave it both apparently meaning something – it’s there in law as an alternative route to qualify to stand – yet also meaning nothing – because the full wording seems to rule out all cases except those already covered by other qualification routes. For more detail see my post from 2011.Standing-for-election-in-the-United-Kingdom-Electoral-Commission-report-Jan-2015