The Electoral Commission

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

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Review of the registers of political parties

Published: 19 Nov 2018

We are reviewing the registers of political parties to ensure all descriptions identify the party they are registered to. This is so that voters can clearly identify parties on their ballot paper.

Why do all descriptions need to identify the party they are registered to?

Candidates don’t always have to use their party’s name on the ballot paper. Sometimes they can use a registered description instead. Many descriptions don’t include party names. Because of this a voter may mistakenly cast their vote for a candidate who stands for a different party than they intended to vote for. Or they simply may not know what party a candidate is standing for.

We always put the voter first. It is important that voters can cast their vote as they intend and are not confused by what they see on ballot papers. We have clarified the definition of a party description in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). By doing so we’re ensuring voters can clearly identify a party, regardless of whether the candidate uses the registered name or a registered description on a ballot paper.

When did you start applying the clarified definition of a party description?

We started applying the clarified definition of a party description from the end of April 2017.

What is the legal power you are using?

As outlined in section 23 of PPERA, we have a duty to maintain the registers of political parties. From time to time we run reviews to ensure that each registered party and its identity marks still meet the statutory tests for being on the register.

Which parties are affected by your review?

We are looking at every party registered prior to 3 May 2017 that also has one or more registered descriptions.

What is the decision-making process for the review?

Decisions will generally be taken by the Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, or in some circumstances the Head of Commission in Scotland. They will be supported by an internal Approval Board of senior Commission staff.

In what order will you complete the review?

We will review the registered descriptions on the register of political parties in Northern Ireland first, followed by Great Britain, each in alphabetical order by party name. Where a party is registered on both the Northern Ireland and Great Britain registers, we may review the descriptions on each register together.

How long will the review take?

We expect to complete the review of the registered descriptions on the register of political parties in Northern Ireland by early 2019. At that time, we will also complete the review of descriptions for parties who are registered on both the Northern Ireland and Great Britain registers.

After the polls on 2 May 2019 have taken place, we expect to complete the review of the registered descriptions on the register of political parties in Great Britain in the second half of 2019.

Will you contact parties about the review?

We will contact you if your party may be affected by the review. However, you may only need to act if we decide to remove any of your party’s registered descriptions.

Will you invite parties to express their views as part of the review process?

If we provisionally decide to remove any descriptions of your party, you will have the chance to tell us what you think. We will write to you telling you when you need to make those representations by.

What happens if you decide a party description does not identify the party?

We will remove the description from the register(s) meaning the party won’t be able to use that description on ballot papers.

Candidates will still be able to use the party’s remaining registered identity marks (names, descriptions or emblems) on the ballot paper.

Can we still use a removed description when we are campaigning?

Yes. If we remove a description from the register, the party or its candidates will still be able to use it in campaigning activities including on any materials. However, the party won’t be able to use that description on ballot papers.

Can we see your decision documents?

If we decide to remove any party’s registered descriptions we will write to you and explain the reasons for our decision. If you want to see the decision documents you can request these under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by emailing our Information Manager.

What can I do if I disagree with your decision?

To challenge a statutory decision you can apply for a judicial review of our decision. You should seek your own legal advice about that.

Retaining or removing a registered party identity mark is one of our statutory decisions and it is not covered by our complaints procedure. If your complaint is about our administrative processes, this may be dealt with under our complaints procedure. Find out more about how to make a complaint.

You have removed some of my party’s descriptions. Can my party apply to register new descriptions?

Yes, you can apply to register new party descriptions at any time.

Will you charge a fee for a new application?

If you make an application within one month of the description being removed from the register, we will waive the usual application fee.

How do I apply to register new descriptions?

Parties can have up to 12 registered descriptions. We assess all applications to register descriptions against the statutory requirements and tests set out in PPERA. Read our guidance about party names, descriptions and emblems.

You should also search the registers of political parties to determine if any party names, descriptions and emblems already registered are similar to what you would like to use.

You can submit your application online. For help you can read our guidance about submitting your application online. Remember to ensure the description makes the identity of your party clear to voters.

Please select ‘pay by cheque’ when you need to pay. You won’t need to provide a cheque if you are applying within one month of the description being removed so this will mean we won’t charge you for your application.

You can also complete a form to apply by post. You won’t need to provide payment with the form if you are applying within one month of the description being removed.

How long will it take you to assess a new application?

If you send us a complete application usually we will let you know the outcome within approximately six weeks. It may take more time than that if we need to ask for more information from you.

How can I get help with my application?

We can provide guidance, however you will need to decide what details to include in your application, and we won’t be able to tell you in advance if your application will be successful. Once we have received it, we will assess your application against the criteria in PPERA before letting you know the final outcome.

Party or campaigner