Voter registration campaigning: is it regulated?
Ahead of elections, lots of individuals and organisations run campaigns to encourage people to register to vote or how to use their vote in the election. Each year these campaigns make a really important contribution to getting as many of eligible people as possible on the electoral registers, supporting the work done by local authorities, political parties and by us.
While most of these campaigns will not be regulated, in some cases there may be rules that apply, including on how much you can spend on your activities. This will depend on the types of activities you are carrying out and what other people may think when they look at your campaign.
We want to make sure you have the right information to ensure you stay within the rules. This page provides an overview of the rules and when they might apply to your voter registration campaign.
The rules around political finance are an essential part of our election laws and are designed to support public confidence in the integrity of the poll. This includes providing transparency about who is spending money to influence the way that people vote, and what they are spending that money on.
An important part of the rules relates to ‘non-party campaigners’.
‘Non-party campaigners’ is the term used for individuals and organisations that campaign around elections but do not stand as political parties or candidates. This might include anything from companies or charities to other less formal groups of people or even individuals.
There are specific rules on how much these campaigners can spend on regulated activities around an election, and above certain amounts of spending they need to formally register with us.
Whether a campaign is regulated will depend on the facts in each individual case. To decide if an activity is regulated we apply two tests:
- The Purpose test: Is someone likely to think the activity is influencing voters to vote in a particular way? What is the content, tone, timing, and is there a call to action?
- The Public test: Is the activity aimed at the general public?
Encouraging people to vote or register to vote are not regulated activities because they alone will not meet the purpose test – a reasonable person is unlikely to view these activities as influencing voters to vote in a particular way.
However, in cases where your activities go beyond a simple voter registration or voter awareness campaign, you will need to consider where these additional activities meet the non-party campaigner tests.
The intention or aim of the activity is not important, instead it is important to consider what a reasonable person would think when they look at the campaign. This is assessed through the purpose and public tests as mentioned above.
Whether a campaign is regulated will depend on the facts in each individual case. You should read Non-party campaigners: Where to start to help you decide whether your campaign falls within the rules. You can also contact us for advice on your campaign.
If your campaign does fall within the rules, this doesn’t mean that you cannot do what you were planning, just that there may be a limit to what you can spend, and you may have to report information about what you did after the election.
These rules are an important part of the transparency that exists in our elections, and exist to ensure people can be confident about how they are run.
- You should make sure you and your campaigners follow the Code of Conduct for campaigners in Great Britain. This Code sets out what is, and is not, considered acceptable behaviour in the community and at polling stations.
- If you are running a voter registration campaign, take a look at our democratic engagement resources which you can use and share with voters in your community.
- People can register online or download application forms from GOV.UK. Find out more about who can register
- You can also help voters with information about postal and proxy voting. Find information and download our absent voting application forms
- If completed registration or absent vote applications are given to you or your campaigners these should be sent on unaltered to the Electoral Registration Officer within two working days of receipt.
These applications must be received by the Electoral Registration Officer by the relevant statutory deadline. There are separate deadlines for registering to vote and registering to vote by post or by proxy. View these deadlines and find the contact details for electoral registration teams.