Code of conduct for campaigners
Campaigners are an essential element of a healthy democracy, and their right to put their arguments to voters should be supported and protected. It is equally important, however, to ensure that the activities of campaigners do not bring into question the integrity of the electoral process, or the candidates they are supporting.
We have developed a Code of Conduct for campaigners in Great Britain which sets out what is, and is not, considered acceptable behaviour at polling stations and in the community during the lead-up to polling day.
The Code of Conduct covers everyone actively involved in campaigning in elections or referendums in Great Britain, including:
- Candidates standing at an election, their agents and their staff and supporters
- Political party officers, members and supporters campaigning at an election
- Other people and organisations campaigning for or against a candidate, a group of candidates or a party at an election
- People and organisations campaigning for or against a particular outcome at a referendum
The Code of Conduct is a non-statutory agreement. It was developed following open consultation and the following political parties have signed up to the Code:
- The Labour Party
- The Scottish National Party (SNP)
- The Conservative Party
- The Liberal Democrats
- The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
- Plaid Cymru
- The Green Party
We have asked all candidates for the May 2016 Mayor of London elections to follow the Code. You can see which candidates for the Mayor of London elections have made a public commitment to follow the Code below:
- Sadiq Khan – Labour Party
- Rosalind Readhead – Independent
The main points from the Code of Conduct for Campaigners are summarised below:
Postal and proxy vote applications
- Campaigners should ensure that any bespoke postal or proxy voting application forms conform fully to the requirements of electoral law, including all the necessary questions and the options open to electors.
- Campaigners should always explain to electors the implications of applying to vote by post or appointing a proxy.
Postal vote applications
- Campaigners should not encourage electors to have their postal ballot pack redirected to anywhere other than the address where they are registered to vote.
- Campaigners should ensure that the local Electoral Registration Officer's address is provided as the preferred address for the return of absent vote application forms.
- Campaigners should send on unaltered any completed application forms given to them to the relevant Electoral Registration Officer's address within two working days of receipt.
Proxy vote applications
- Electors should be encouraged to explore other options for people to act as a proxy – including relatives or neighbours, for example – before a campaigner agrees to be appointed as a proxy.
Postal voting ballot papers
- Campaigners should never touch or handle anyone else's ballot paper.
- Campaigners should never observe voters completing their ballot paper. If you are with a voter when they complete their ballot paper, remember they should always complete it in secret.
- Campaigners should not ask or encourage voters to give them any completed ballot paper or ballot paper envelope.
- If asked by a voter to take a completed postal ballot pack on their behalf, campaigners should immediately post it or take it directly to the office of the Returning Officer or to a polling station.
Campaigning outside polling places
- Campaigners should be allowed to put their messages to voters on polling day, including in public spaces outside polling places.
- Campaigners should keep access to polling places and the pavements around polling places clear to allow voters to enter.
Complaints and allegations about electoral fraud
- Campaigners should be prepared to give the police a statement and substantiate any allegations of electoral fraud they make.
- Campaigners who are concerned or think that electoral fraud may have taken place should raise the matter with their election agent or local party, or with the relevant Electoral Registration Officer or Returning Officer for the area.
- Any campaigner who has actual evidence of an electoral offence having been committed should report it directly and without delay to the police.
Compliance with the code
Any concerns that this code has been breached should be raised first with the candidate, political party or campaigner in question.
Any further concerns should be drawn to the attention of the Electoral Commission. The Commission will raise them with the relevant party or campaigner if appropriate, and wherever possible will agree appropriate actions to remedy or prevent a recurrence of any breach.