The Elections Bill - UK Government must pause and rethink

Published on

6 Sep 2021


At Involve, we believe people should be part of decisions that affect their lives. Free and fair elections are one crucial way this happens; they allow people’s voices to be heard by those in power and for those in power to respond. However, it takes work to ensure people understand and participate in elections. 

Instead, the government has brought forward a bill that fails to tackle the big problems our democracy faces and threatens to make things worse. That is why we are calling on the UK Government to pause and rethink the Elections Bill.

In recent years, the principle of a free and fair election appears to be on increasingly shaky ground. Whether it is growing political disengagement, the influx of US-style big money into our elections, foreign influence, or shadowy third-party groups, the threat to free and fair elections has never been greater.

Rather than deepening the involvement of people in communities across the country, we believe the UK Government’s Elections Bill will likely damage democracy. Specifically, it fails to:

  • Take steps to improve political engagement or encourage higher participation in elections
  • Implement any of the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report on election finance
  • Tackle problems created by big money donations, that often mean “cash for access” – whoever donates the most gets the most access to decision-makers, giving people with more money greater opportunties to influence those in power

Instead, the bill seeks to:

  • Spend up to £180million over ten years introducing mandatory photo ID that could disenfranchise millions of voters
  • Remove powers from and abolish the independence of the elections’ watchdog that polices our elections
  • Gives Ministers fresh powers to restrict the activities of charities and campaign groups
  • Fundamentally, it is a bill that will concentrate power in the hands of a small number of individuals and further disempower the ordinary voter

We need an Elections Bill that will strengthen our democracy and deliver on the promise that in a democracy, all voices are equal.

The Elections Bill will go to Parliament for a second reading, which is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. If you are also concerned about its contents, you can sign a 'scrap the Voter ID' petition or contact your MP.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s (PACAC) has issued a Call for Evidence on the Bill. See here for our PACAC SUbmission