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Political party registration

This page provides an overview of what parties are required to do when they register with us. If you wish to register a party with us, or you are a registered party looking for assistance, please go to our guidance page on registering and maintaining a political party.

If you are thinking about setting up a political party, you may need to register with us. If you do, you will need to follow certain rules. Once you have registered with us, your candidates can use your party name, description and emblem on ballot papers at elections.

Registration applications ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections on 2 March 2017

Applications to register a new political party, amend a party name, amend or add an emblem, or to add a description

We will endeavour to process any registration applications received as quickly as possible. However, because of the short time frame we are unable to guarantee that you will receive a decision from the Commission by 6 February 2017, which is two days before the deadline for delivery on nomination papers, in time for use on the ballot paper at this election.

Applications to substitute or remove a description

Please also note that if an application to substitute or remove a description is granted at any time between:

  • the date of publication of the notice of election (including the date of publication) at an election in which there are one or more candidates standing in the name of the party,  and
  • the poll at the election,

the change does not take effect until the day following the poll.

This means that where a decision is granted on an application to substitute or remove a description on the day of publication of the notice of election or after, it will not take effect with regard to what can appear on the ballot paper for that election.

In order for an application to substitute or remove a description to take effect for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the decision must be granted by 25 January 2017.

If we have not already received your application by now, it is unlikely to be granted by 25 January 2017.  We endeavour to process all applications received as soon as possible and we aim to let the applicant know the result of their application within 30 working days.  We must carefully assess applications against the criteria set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Undertaking this process can take some time in order to ensure we reach a fair conclusion within the legislative requirements.

Deadline for registration applications ahead of the May 2017 polls

Applications to register a new political party, amend a party name, amend or add an emblem, or to add a description

In order to receive a decision from the Commission no later than two days before close of nominations at an election in May 2017, you need to have submitted your application by Friday 10 February 2017.

If we receive a complete application by Friday 10 February 2017, either to register a new political party, amend a party name, amend or add an emblem, or to add a description, we guarantee to assess it and provide our decision by the relevant deadline, which is two days before the deadline for delivery of nomination papers.

We cannot guarantee that any application received after Friday 10 February 2017 will receive a decision in time for inclusion on a ballot paper for the May 2017 polls.

Please note that different rules apply to applications to substitute or remove a description.

Applications to substitute or remove a description

If an application to substitute or remove a description is granted at any time between:

  • the date of publication of the notice of election (including the date of publication)  at an election in which there are one or more candidates standing in the name of the party, and
  • the poll at the election,

the change does not take effect until the day following the poll.

This means that where a decision is granted on an application to substitute or remove a description on the day of publication of the notice of election or after, it will not take effect with regard to what can appear on the ballot paper for that election.

If you intend to submit an application of this type, please contact the Commission. You must ensure you deliver your application to the Commission well before the date of publication of the notice of election at which you intend to stand candidates to allow time for it to go through the application process.

We endeavour to process all applications received as soon as possible and we aim to let the applicant know the result of their application within 30 working days.  The Commission must carefully assess applications against the criteria set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Undertaking this process can take some time in order to ensure the Commission reaches a fair conclusion within the legislative requirements.

As the date of publication of the notice of election will vary, unfortunately we cannot provide a specific date for receipt of applications that will allow us to guarantee a decision in time for use on the ballot paper.

Please note that the notice of election for the local elections in England and Wales on 4 May 2017 must be published no later than 27 March 2017.  However, local authorities may individually choose to publish the notice sooner than that. In relation to the Scottish council elections on 4 May 2017, the Convener of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland has directed that the notice of election be published on 13 March 2017.

Registration requirements for political parties

When registering, parties need to provide us with some information about their party structure, including a financial scheme, their constitution and details of any branches of the party that manage their own finances (“accounting units”). They must also appoint people to the official roles of:

  • Party leader
  • Treasurer
  • Nominating officer

Registered parties must keep details of these roles up to date and inform us of any changes. Every year we ask parties to confirm their registration details in an annual registration confirmation.

We publish details of registered political parties on our online database:

The details of registered parties that we publish online include:

  • party emblems
  • party descriptions
  • names of people appointed to official roles
  • a list of registered accounting units

We do not publish parties’ constitutions. However, we provide copies on request.

Rules on names, descriptions and emblems

There are rules on the names, descriptions and emblems that parties can register with us. These rules are intended to make ballot papers clear and easy to use and avoid the use of offensive names.

Cost of registration

All parties must pay a registration fee when registering with us. They also have to pay a smaller fee every year to stay registered. Current fees are explained in our guidance on registering and maintaining a political party.

Responsibilities and obligations as a registered political party

When parties register with us they have a number of on-going responsibilities and obligations. These include complying with rules on campaign spending, sources of funding and a certain reporting requirements to ensure political finances are transparent.

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