Performance analysis 2020/21: Goal one

Goal 1

To enable the continued delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible.

This goal captures our role in overseeing the delivery of elections across all parts of the UK and focuses on three areas: delivering well-run electoral events, maximising and modernising electoral registration, and tackling electoral fraud.

Goal 1

To help deliver well-run electoral events we:

  • published guidance and resources, and provided support to electoral administrators, candidates and agents for the scheduled elections in May 2021, including those postponed from May 2020; this included a range of supplementary guidance for administrators and candidates and agents to support the delivery of the polls in the context of the pandemic
  • worked with stakeholders from across the electoral community to identify and publish a shared set of high-level objectives for delivering successful elections in the developing public health environment
  • published a range of resources for local authorities to use to help share messages about the safe running of the polls and the voting options available
  • worked with the National Police Chiefs Council, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the College of Policing to provide new guidance for candidates and campaigners on recognising and reporting intimidation
  • worked with organisations supporting people with a disability to raise awareness of how to take part in elections and what support they can expect to receive
  • launched a new system for processing applications for accreditation for electoral observers  

To help maximise and modernise electoral registration, we:

  • supported Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) in Great Britain with delivery of the first annual canvass using the reformed process; including through the provision of guidance and advice, and the publication of supplementary guidance to support EROs with managing the canvass in the context of the pandemic 
  • published a response to our consultation on performance standards for EROs, and used the updated framework to inform our support and challenge work with EROs throughout the canvass 
  • worked closely with the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland on preparations for the electoral registration canvass, now expected to take place in 2021 

To help tackle electoral fraud, we:

  • worked with the police and local authorities to provide training and review integrity plans to help prevent electoral fraud
  • published updated data on alleged cases of electoral fraud reported during 2019, and new data on a small number of cases reported during 2020
  • worked with partners to prepare a campaign to raise awareness of electoral fraud, ahead of the May 2021 elections
  • delivered, with the National Police Chiefs Council, our annual conference for police elections Single Points of Contact as an online event
  • worked with the City of London Police Economic Crime Academy to host and contribute content to four training courses for police officers

Performance measures

Measure Performance
We publish 100% of guidance products relating to electoral registration on time with no substantive errors


We provide accurate advice to Returning Officers (ROs) and EROs within three working days of receipt of the request. (Target 100%) 99.4%
Additions to electoral registers during our public awareness campaigns meet or exceed our targets 
(Target 0% - no campaign was held)


Our activities during the year

Delivering well-run electoral events

Owing to the pandemic and the consequent decisions taken by the UK’s governments, there were no electoral events in 2020/21 apart from local government by-elections in Scotland. The Commission therefore quickly focused in 2020/21 on supporting the electoral community to prepare for the elections scheduled – and rescheduled – for May 2021.

To support administrators with preparing for and delivering polls in the context of Covid-19, we produced a suite of supplementary guidance and resources that reflected the specific requirements of managing the 2021 polls in a Covid-19 secure way. The supplementary guidance documents were designed to be read in conjunction with our suite of core guidance for Returning Officers and were developed in close consultation with the electoral community and public health bodies across Great Britain. 

We developed an extensive range of new voter information materials, to support public understanding of how to participate with confidence in the forthcoming elections in the changed context. These included resources focused on informing people about the voting options available to them, and encouraging forward planning, and resources communicating the safety measures that would be in place in polling stations. While used directly by the Commission, their primary purpose was to support local authorities and other stakeholders to provide accurate and timely information to their communities.

Maximising and modernising electoral registration

2020 saw the first annual canvass in Great Britain run under a new reformed process allowing EROs to use national and local-level data to identify addresses where there is likely to have been a change in the people who are eligible to register to vote. This allows EROs to focus their resources in areas of greatest need. We see these reforms as an important step towards improving our electoral registration system and we intend to report on the running of the canvass, using data collected from EROs, in summer 2021.

Our work to support the introduction of these reforms included providing extensive guidance and advice to help electoral administrators understand their new responsibilities, designing and delivering new voter registration forms, and ensuring our new performance standards for EROs are aligned with the new process. We also developed additional guidance to address the specific challenges of running a canvass in the context of the pandemic.

Our scrutiny of proposals from the Northern Ireland Office and our continual dialogue with the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland on a full canvass of electors – originally planned for 2020 but now scheduled to take place in 2021 – have helped to ensure that preparations for the canvass have progressed well. Alongside the work undertaken by the Chief Electoral Officer, we will be running a new multimedia public awareness campaign across Northern Ireland to encourage the electorate to register during the canvass period. We have also committed to reporting on the conduct of the canvass, and plan to publish this in advance of the May 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election. 

Tackling electoral fraud

We provided guidance and advice to support EROs, ROs and the police to deal with electoral fraud. For the fourth year in a row, we also worked with the City of London Police Economic Crime Academy to host and contribute content to four training courses for police officers. We jointly organised the 16th Annual National SPOC (single point of contact) seminar which took place virtually for the first time, working with our partners at the National Police Chiefs’ Council. We also supported SPOC seminars in Scotland and Wales, and provided dedicated election briefings for new SPOCs.

Throughout the year, police forces across the UK sent us data about allegations of electoral fraud that they received and investigated. Every year we report on the number, type, and outcome of these allegations, to understand what has happened and how cases are resolved. We provided updates on outcomes from cases reported in 2019, including from the UKPGE, and also published data on the small number cases reported during 2020. 

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