Performance analysis 2020/21: Goal three

Goal 3

To be an independent and respected centre of expertise, using knowledge and insight to further the transparency, fairness and efficiency of our democratic system, and help adapt it to the modern, digital age.

This area of work focuses on innovation and strengthening our evidence base. Our expertise in policy, research and communications are core to enabling this work.

Key achievements

To contribute to innovation and strengthening our evidence base, we:

  • reported on the 2019 UK Parliamentary general election and made recommendations to help improve future electoral events
  • commissioned qualitative research with the public across the UK to explore attitudes to current voting processes and access to information about elections
  • provided the Scottish and Welsh governments and parliaments with independent expert advice on legislative and policy changes arising from their respective electoral reform agendas
  • supported the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to develop and put in place legislation to help meet the challenges of delivering well-run elections in the context of public health restrictions
  • published a set of modular citizen education resources for 14-18 year olds in Scotland and for the first time in Wales, ahead of Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd elections
  • submitted a detailed response to the UK Government’s technical consultation to inform the development of new transparency requirements (‘imprints’) for digital campaign material
  • launched a public awareness campaign and supporting online information hub to increase digital literacy in relation to online campaigning – developing content in partnership with the Information Commissioner’s Office, Ofcom, the UK Statistics Authority, and the Advertising Standards Authority
  • monitored the delivery of electoral events around the world that were held in the context of Covid restrictions, to inform the development of practices in the UK 
  • published a series of research reports about attitudes towards voting ahead of the May 2021 polls
  • published the findings of qualitative research into public attitudes to the transparency of political finance in Northern Ireland
  • gave evidence to parliamentary committees to ensure our expert analysis about elections and regulation would inform their work. 

Performance measures

Measure Performance
We publish 100% of our reports to planned deadlines 100%
We comment on 100% of relevant legislation and policy proposals 100%
Work in support of the electoral law reform recommendations from the England and Wales, Scotland and the Northern Ireland Law Commissions Ongoing


Our activities during the year

Innovation and strengthening our evidence base

We published our statutory report on the delivery of the December 2019 UK Parliamentary general election. We found that the election was generally well-run, but our analysis highlighted new evidence showing challenges for the future. Our report described how the UK’s electoral administration structures are operating under significant strain, and highlighted that people have growing concerns about some aspects of election campaigning. The UK Government’s response welcomed our report, noting that it helps “to ensure that our democracy remains world-leading by identifying current challenges and opportunities”.

We provided expert advice and support to the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments and parliaments, to help develop policy and legislation to support the delivery of elections in the context of developing public health restrictions. This included advice on 24 separate proposals for draft legislation during this year; our input helped to ensure these would be workable in practice.

We provided expert advice to the UK and Scottish governments as they developed proposals for improving the transparency of digital campaign material. Our extensive experience of regulating the current requirement for campaigners to include an ‘imprint’, showing who is responsible for printing and promoting printed campaign material, helped the Scottish Government to put in place a new requirement for digital election campaign material for the first time in the UK. We also provided a comprehensive response to the UK Government’s technical consultation to inform its own plans for legislation which is expected to be introduced later this year. 

We gave evidence to parliamentary committees to ensure our expert analysis about elections and regulation would inform their work. In the UK Parliament, this included the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, in response to its inquiry into the work of the Electoral Commission, as well as a joint session with the Local Government Association and the Association of Electoral Administrators focussing on preparations for the May 2021 polls. We also worked with the Committee on Standards in Public Life in response to its review of electoral regulation. 

In the Senedd, we gave evidence to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee on the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill, and to the Assembly Electoral Reform Committee’s inquiry into electoral systems and boundaries, and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee on the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill.

In the Scottish Parliament, we gave evidence to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill and the Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill. We also gave evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee on the Referendums (Scotland) Bill.

Acting on analytics and feedback from user testing, we continued to develop our website, both functionality and content. We continued to ensure compliance with website content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.1), converting content from PDF to HTML. 

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