Purpose of policy

This policy is about how the Electoral Commission will meet its statutory obligation as a public record body to select records for permanent preservation under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958 (PRA). Selection will happen by the appraisal process and methodology in this policy. Selected records will be subject to a sensitivity review before transfer to the National Archives (TNA) or an approved place of deposit as set in the Public Records Act.

The Electoral Commission is an independent body whose statutory function is to oversee elections and regulate political finance in the UK in order to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity.

The Electoral Commission became subject to the Public Records Act in 2001 when it was formed under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000.

Commission responsibilities under the Public Records Act

  • Selection of records for permanent preservation, under the guidance and supervision of the Keeper of Public Records.
  • The safekeeping of those records.
  • Transfer of selected records to TNA or other approved place of deposit not later than twenty years after their creation. This applies unless they are retained. In this case the approval of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport must be obtained.
  • Carry out formal applications for retention and closure through The National Archives. These are reviewed by The Advisory Council on National Archives and Records.
  • Disposal of records not selected for preservation by destruction or presentation to another institution.

History of The Electoral Commission 

The Electoral Commission was established under PPERA with new functions as well as functions formerly carried out by Companies House and the Home Office. It has a legal duty to ensure elections are ran fairly, manage referendums, act as the registrar of political parties, and regulate political finance in the UK by ensuring transparency through public access to registers of donations and spending of political parties. In 2007 its duties were increased, and it was given powers to start its own investigations into political parties.

Our approach to Appraisal and Selection

The Electoral Commission appraises and selects records for permanent preservation in line with The National Archives’ Records Collection Policy and in line with our remit and strategic functions. Appraisal and selection are made at the highest appropriate level of seniority then by function and file series, though it may not be possible to avoid appraisal at file level entirely. The selection process also considers the Commission’s legal responsibilities as a publisher to legally deposit under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013. 

Under its corporate plan 2022/23-2026/27, its strategic objectives are:

Accessible registration and votingEnsuring every person who is eligible to register, and vote is aware of how to do so through targeted campaigning. Media used include posters, TV and radio ads, social media, and paper materials.

Working with groups of under-represented groups, including RNIB, schools and the Travelling community.
Transparent political campaigning and compliant political financeReceiving, monitoring, and publishing returns for, donations and spending of all candidates and political parties on searchable registers, carry out investigations and issue fines for non-compliance with PPERA. 

Carry out research into how elections were run, highlight problems experienced by voters and candidates to improve their experiences, run pilot studies and publish findings.
Resilient local election servicesProviding guidance and running workshops, setting standards for Local Authority Councils and their staff, answering questions from Electoral Registration Officers and candidates etc.
Fair and effective electoral lawPublishing reports and recommendations, providing policy advice and feedback to governments and interpreting electoral law to ensure full understanding of the rules by the public, councils and those taking part in elections or referendums.
A modern and sustainable electoral systemHarnessing IT innovations and adapting new strategies:  reviewing the implications of these innovations on campaigning and how elections are run.

Records selected for permanent preservation 


Board minutes and papers including information considered to be confidential at the time of creation. 

Minutes from the Party Panels whose members represent political parties with more than two sitting MPs. The four panels comprise parties represented in the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Senedd and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Management of referendums and elections including the Northeast referendum, Scottish referendum, and the EU referendum.

Policy and research

Policy files if they contain further information to that add to briefings captured on the website and have directly affected legislation.

Research datasets.


Corporate projects, defined as those: 

  • where significant cost was incurred
  • where there was significant innovation 
  • where there were significant changes to regulation procedures
  • which altered constitutional relationships with devolved administrations.

Investigations conducted under s146 PPERA

Investigation which: 

  • has significant media profile due to the individual, organisation, or electoral event 
  • made significant interpretations of electoral law
  • resulted in significant or novel sanctions
  • significantly impacted on public confidence in an electoral event 

Cases that met any of the above criteria but where the Commission made the decision not to investigate. 

Campaign materials

Campaign materials in digital format, including early posters, tv and radio advertisements, campaign evaluation reports and radio and television scheduling. 

Other records that highlight the work of the Commission including funding initiatives.

Legal advice

Legal advice given to the Commission, not including duplication advice given to investigations and policy.

Records not selected for permanent preservation at The National Archives 

Any records which fall outside the scope of TNA’s Collection Policy. Records for Human Resources, IT and business services, finance and contract functions will not be required for permanent preservation as well as the returns and statement of accounts from candidates and political parties. PPERA outlines the retention periods for these records, and they will be destroyed in line with the Commission’s retention schedules.

As a publisher our publications both hardcopy and digital are legally deposited at the British Library and other legal deposit libraries. Our paper campaign materials and any produced in the future were and will be passed to the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library. At present the Commission produces digital materials.

Electoral Commission website and social media channels.

The Electoral Commission website has been captured by the UK Government web archive since 2004. The website is currently captured several times over the year and especially at times of elections and referendums.

Capture of the full website (including all internal links) a week before elections, (Council, Police Commissioners, General Elections) and a year after provides an archival record of virtually all the Electoral Commissions’ work. The Commission uses the website as its primary source of information.

The UK government web archive has also captured the Commission‘s Twitter feed (now X) and YouTube channel.