Local government elections
The Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) Rules 2006 (“the 2006 Rules”) govern the conduct of elections to county and county borough councils in Wales. The Local Elections (Parishes and Communities) (England and Wales) Rules 2006 (“the Communities Rules”) govern the conduct of elections to community and town councils in Wales.
The 2006 Rules and the Communities Rules provide how a poll is to be conducted. However, to fully understand how a local government election operates, it is necessary to be aware of relevant provisions in the Local Government Act 1972 and the Representation of the People Act 1983. These Acts and subordinate legislation made under them govern when a poll must be held , who may vote at the poll as well as who may be candidates at those polls.
References below to local government elections mean county, county borough, town and community council elections.
Construction of the Rules
Both the 2006 Rules and the Communities Rules contain two sets of rules within them. Which rules are relied upon depends whether the relevant local government election is held separately from another election or together with another relevant election. Where two elections are held at the same time, this known as “combined elections”.
The Rules in Schedule 2 of the 2006 Rules and Communities Rules apply when local government elections are not combined with another relevant election. Where the local government election is combined with another relevant election, the rules that apply are those in Schedule 3 to the 2006 Rules and Communities Rules - these largely apply the rules in Schedule 2 subject to modifications.
Content of the rules
References to Rules below are to Schedule 2 to the 2006 Rules. The same references will also apply to the Communities Rules.
Rule 1 outlines the election timetable .
The nomination forms
Rule 4 outlines how a person may be nominated and the content of nomination papers. A candidate is required to state on their nomination paper what their home address is. Their home address is then published to the public in the statement of persons nominated and ballot paper .
It should be noted that Rule 4 of the 2006 Rules differ between local government elections in England and Wales. In Wales, candidates must continue to publish their home address. In England, candidates may publish their home address or the ward where they live in. The position in England reflects the position for parliamentary elections. Due to concerns for candidates safety , the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009 was passed to remove the ‘candidate address’ requirement from parliamentary rules. This was replicated in the 2006 Rules in relation to local government elections in England only.
Rule 5 enables a candidate to insert a “description” on their nomination forms. This subsequently appears next to their name on the ballot paper. A description can only be something authorised or the word “Independent”. This means that the “description” may only be a registered political party or a registered “description” of the political party. Any use of these must be certified by the registered political party.
Rules 6 to 13 prescribe the nomination process. These outline that two electors must propose and second the nomination of a candidate. The candidate must then consent to the nomination. The nomination forms and consent to nomination form may be found in Part 7 of the Schedule. It is an offence to lie in nomination forms or consent to nomination form . In addition, if nomination forms or consent to nomination form of a successful candidate are invalid, the election can be questioned and rerun .
Under Rule 9 the returning officer must publish a statement of persons nominated . Any person may inspect the nomination forms and consent to nomination form of candidates. Rule 13 enables a candidate to withdraw their nomination.
On some occasions the number of candidates for local government elections will not exceed the number of vacancies on the council. In such cases no poll will be held and the candidate will be declared elected in accordance with Part 4 of the Rules (Rule 14). The declaration of the result is similar for both contested and uncontested elections and with here .
Where the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies on the council, a poll must be held in accordance with Part 3 of the Rules (Rule 14).
Rules 15 to 29 outline the preparatory work before a poll is to be conducted, these Rules outline:
- the contents of ballot papers (Rules 16 to 18) and the sending out of postal ballot papers (Rule 22)
- that returning officers may use free of charge a school maintained by local government as a polling or counting station and make provision for such stations (Rules 20, 23 and 26)
- the content of the notice of poll (Rule 21) and the issuing of poll cards (Rule 25)
- how the presiding officer, polling clerks and polling agents are to be appointed (Rules 24 and 27). There is one returning officer for each local government election. However, there may be a number of presiding officers (one for each polling station). Polling clerks can also be appointed to attend polling stations
Rules 30 to 43 govern the poll itself. These Rules govern:
- who may enter a polling station (Rule 30)
- how ballot boxes are sealed (Rule 32)
- questions polling clerks may ask voters (Rule 33)
- how to vote (Rule 35)
- provisions about disabled or blind voters (Rules 36 and 37)
- what happens if a person has already voted (e.g. by proxy) but wishes to vote again (Rules 38 and 39)
- the strict procedures that must be followed when the poll closes (Rule 43)
Rules 44 to 49 govern the count.
Special provision is made to allow a poll to be cancelled:
- the poll may be adjourned if there is a riot or open violence at the polling station (Rule 42). This is the decision that the presiding officer may make. Where an election is adjourned, it must be held on the following day
- where a candidate dies before the result of the election is declared, the election is countermanded (Rule 55)
- where a candidate dies before the result of the election is declared and polling is ongoing, the election must be abandoned. Any ballot papers must be disposed of (Rule 55)
- if a poll is abandoned or countermanded, the returning officer must order an election to fill any vacancies within 35 days of the date of the initial poll
Rule 50 outlines how the returning officers must declare who the elected candidate is and how notices are issued .
Rules 51 to 54 governs what happens to various documents that were used at the election. For example ballot papers must be sealed and stored.
Part 7 of the Rules contains an appendix of forms that are used at elections. Welsh language versions of these forms have been issued under section 26 of the Welsh Language Act 1993. For Welsh language versions of forms used in county and county borough council elections see the Local Elections (Principal Areas) (Welsh Forms) Order 2007. For Welsh language versions of forms used in town and community council elections see Local Elections (Communities) (Welsh Forms) Order 2007.
The National Assembly for Wales (Representation of the People) Order 2007 (the 2007 Order) makes provision for the conduct of elections to the National Assembly for Wales.
Voting at Assembly elections
The rules governing voting at Assembly elections including absent votes, proxy voting and the duties of returning officers are found in Part 2 of this Order. Schedule 1 makes detailed provision for applications for absent voting and the maintenance of records in connection with such applications. Schedule 3 makes provision for the form of postal voting statements and the issue and receipt of postal ballot papers.
Schedule 5 to the 2007 Order contains the rules for the conduct of Assembly elections and the return of Assembly members.
The election campaign
Rules for the election campaign in relation to both constituencies and electoral regions (including criminal offences relating to these) are found in Part 3.
Donations and expenses
Schedule 6 to the 2007 Order makes provision controlling donations to constituency candidates and individual candidates in electoral regions. Registered political parties and the candidates on the lists they submit for Assembly regional elections are regulated under separate provision in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 .
Schedule 7 to the 2007 Order makes provision in connection with election expenses.
Combination of polls
On occasion, polls can be combined. For example, polls at an Assembly general election and an ordinary election of police and crime commissioners. Where there is a combination of certain polls, sections 16 and 16A and Schedule 4 to the 2007 Order deal with the rules which apply where there is a combination of polls.
Appendix of forms
The forms which the 2007 Order prescribes for use (such as the form of postal voting statement and the form of nomination papers) can be found in Schedule 10 to the 2007 Order.
Questioning or challenging an Assembly election
Provision about how to question an Assembly election or a return at an Assembly election is made in Part 4 which provides for the conduct of legal proceedings arising from the election campaign and the penalties for the commission of offences.