The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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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.


On 10 April 2019 an order came into force that the European Parliamentary elections will take place in the UK on 23 May 2019. The close of nominations will be 4pm on Wednesday 24 April 2019 in the South West electoral region and 4pm on Thursday 25 April 2019 in all other regions.

We must assess all registration applications against legal tests. Due to the very short time until close of nominations, we will not decide applications made now in time for the poll. If you have a current application with us, we will provide you with a decision as soon as possible. However, we cannot guarantee that it will be prior to close of nominations.

If a party is not registered with us then candidates may not use that party’s name or identity marks on ballot papers. However, individual candidates do not need to stand on behalf of a political party in order to contest the election – those candidates can use the word “Independent” to identify themselves on ballot papers. You can find guidance for candidates here.

If you don’t stand candidates at the EPEs but you still campaign, you may be considered a “non-party campaigner”, or “third party”. You can find more information about non-party campaigner registration and spending rules for the EPEs here.


Registration applications ahead of the May 2019 polls in England and Northern Ireland

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

In order to have been likely to receive a decision from the Commission on registration applications for use on ballot papers at the May 2019 polls, you needed to have submitted your application to us by 12pm on Monday 4 February 2019. That deadline has now passed. Any registration application now lodged is unlikely to receive a decision in time for inclusion on a ballot paper for the May 2019 polls.

Not being registered as a political party does not prevent a party from campaigning ahead of the May 2019 polls.  Nor does it prevent an individual nominating to stand as a candidate.  However, any candidate that may stand will not be able to use the unregistered party’s name or identity marks on ballot papers, instead they can nominate to use the word ‘Independent’ to identify themselves on ballot papers.

We endeavour to process all registration applications received as soon as possible, however, we must carefully assess applications against the criteria set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Undertaking this necessary process can take some time in order to ensure we reach a fair conclusion within the legislative requirements.

Please note that the registration application fee is not refundable.

Applications to substitute or remove a description

Specific rules apply to applications to substitute or remove a description.  Because of the tight timescales involved, any application now lodged is unlikely to receive a decision in time for inclusion a ballot paper for the May 2019 polls.

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
  • polling day

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.

Please note that the notice of election for the local elections in England on 2 May 2019 must be published no later than 26 March 2019. However, local authorities may individually choose to publish the notice sooner than that.

We endeavour to process all applications received as soon as possible, however, we must carefully assess applications against the criteria set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Undertaking this necessary process can take some time in order to ensure we reach a fair conclusion within the legislative requirements.

Please note that the registration application fee is not refundable.

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.

Political parties, campaigning and donations