Can restructuring our electoral law improve it?

Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011There’s a very useful study out, commissioned by the Electoral Commission, looking at whether restructuring the laws governing elections, without making substantive changes to their content, could improve them.

I’m regularly disappointed by the low value placed on simplicity by people who come up with rules that govern our lives, especially when it comes to law or regulations that large numbers of volunteers, and not simply an elite cadre of paid professionals, need to follow. (It’s one of the reasons I think the Office of the Public Guardian has such flawed processes; what should be a service for the public instead has become something so complicated the default is to pay a lawyer instead, which means fewer people use the service.)

It was therefore really good to see the Electoral Commission taking seriously the complexity of our electoral laws and commissioning this independent study, carried out by Professor Watt of Buckingham University.

As former Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge turned Electoral Commissioner David Howarth says in the report, along with the Electoral Commission’s Bob Posner:

Many of the present problems with our electoral law result from a structure that unnecessarily complicates the democratic process. Electoral legislation in the UK is spread out across over around two hundred Acts, Regulations and Orders. There are also inconsistencies between electoral events and a hierarchy of legislation that does not always seem logical and consistent. This hinders the delivery of, and participation in, well-run elections.


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