The independent elections watchdog
and regulator of party and election finance

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Observing elections and referendums

One of our roles is to authorise people and organisations to observe UK elections and relevant referendums. On this page you will find:

  • the Code of Practice all observers must follow
  • information on how to apply to become an observer and application forms
  • the registers of accredited observers, organisations and authorised Commission representatives

We also issue:

  • guidance to electoral officers on giving access to observers
  • guidance to our own staff who observe elections and referendums on behalf of the Electoral Commission

Code of Practice for observers

Before applying to become an observer you must read our Code of Practice for observers.

All applicants must sign a declaration on their application form that says they have read and understood the Code of Practice.

How to apply

Organisations and individuals over the age of 16 with an interest in observing elections or referendums can apply to us for accreditation.

Please note that even though we authorise observers, they do not observe on our behalf, or receive any payment.

For your application to be successful, you need to send us the following:

Please email your application and supporting documents to observers@electoralcommission.org.uk.

Please allow at least ten days for us to process your application. Please do not wait until an election/referendum is imminent as accreditation will not come into effect until three days after we issue your observer ID card.

To be an observer at the EU Referendum, you must be politically impartial while you are accredited and not exhibit any bias or preference in relation to a specific referendum outcome. Please read the Code of Practice for observers for further information before completing an application.

The deadline for applying to observe any proceedings relating to the EU Referendum on 23 June is 10 June - we will not be able to process any applications received after this time for the purposes of the referendum.

Observer registers

We maintain the following registers:

Guidance to electoral officers and Commission representatives

We have produced guidance for Returning Officers, Counting Officers and Presiding Officers on giving observers access to electoral proceedings:

Commission representatives are entitled to attend electoral proceedings and also to observe the working practices of election and referendum officials. We have issued guidance for our own staff:

Elections & referendums