The Elections Act 2022 received Royal Assent in April 2022 and came into force on 26th October 2022. This legislation brings into force some of the most contested election reforms in the UK in recent years. This article will discuss the different elements of the Elections Act 2022 and some of the controversy surrounding it.
What is the Elections Act 2022?
This Act, introduced to parliament by former Levelling Up Minister Kemi Badenoch, was part of a commitment to reduce voter fraud in UK elections. One of the significant elements of the Act was the introduction of Voter ID, meaning that to vote in person in UK local elections, national elections and referendums, a voter would have to produce identification. This includes a driver’s license, passport, and Older Person’s Bus Pass, but critically, not a student ID card or national railcard. Critics have described this move as discriminatory against younger voters, as young people are more likely to vote Labour.
A House of Lords amendment to the Elections Act attempted to allow these forms of identification that younger people are more likely to have, but the government rejected this and the Bill passed with a limited list of acceptable identification.
Impact on Electoral Systems
One of the other significant changes that the Elections Act 2022 introduces is the shake-up of electoral systems in certain elections. One of the electoral systems studied as part of the UK Politics topic in A Level Politics is the Supplementary Vote. This system gives voters a first and second choice and means a candidate must have at least 50% of the support of the electorate. This voting system is used to elect mayors and police & crime commissioners.
The Elections Act 2022 has now changed the voting system for these elections from the Supplementary Vote to First Past the Post. This is the same system that is used in General Elections, and has been heavily criticised by many people, including the Electoral Reform Society, for being highly undemocratic. This is because votes cast under First Past the Post rarely reflect the result of the election. In 2019, a minority of people (43%) voted for the Conservative Party, yet the Conservatives won a majority (56%) of parliamentary seats.
Some have argued, however, that mayoral and PCC see very low turnouts, and the movement to First Past the Post, is a good way of boosting turnout as FPTP is a simpler system for voters to understand and for votes to be counted.
Independence and accountability
Another important impact of the Elections Act 2022 is the impact on the Electoral Commission. This was an independent commission established under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The commission’s role was to oversee the funding of political parties, ensure transparency at elections and give neutral guidance to those running elections. This was all fulfilled from a non-partisan position, and accountable to parliament as a whole.
The Elections Act 2022 changes the Electoral Commission to be under the supervision of a government minister, who is also a member of a political party. This would allow the governing party to “guide the work of the commission“, which has been criticised by many as throwing into doubt the integrity and non-partisan nature of the organisation.
The Elections Act, which has seen a remarkable amount of controversy from across the political spectrum, represents a vast change in the running of elections in the UK, particularly regarding the introduction of voter ID and the change of voting systems in mayoral and PCC elections. Do you think that the Elections Act 2022 is a step in the right direction? Or do you think the criticism is has received is valid? Find out more about electoral systems and the Electoral Commission as part of our UK Politics course.