The independent elections watchdog
and regulator of party and election finance

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Our role in elections and referendums

On this page you can read about what we do to support well-run elections and referendums in the UK.

Elections in Great Britain

Elections in Great Britain are run by independent Returning Officers (ROs) based in each local authority area.

We give ROs guidance about how to deliver well-run elections and monitor how well they perform against performance standards.

Elections in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for running elections.

We are currently developing standards with the Chief Electoral Officer for how well-run elections should be delivered in Northern Ireland.

Find out more on the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland website


For referendums in the UK we look at the way the proposed referendum question is worded to make sure it is easy for voters to understand.

For UK-wide referendums the Chair of the Electoral Commission will be the Chief Counting Officer, who is responsible for certifying and announcing the result of the referendum.

The Chief Counting Officer appoints Counting Officers to run the referendum poll in each local area, and can give them directions telling them how to run specific parts of the referendum poll.

Public awareness work

We run public awareness campaigns in the run-up to elections and referendums to make sure people know:

  • when the polls are taking place
  • how to register to vote and by when they need to register in order to be able to vote
  • how to vote in the polls

Find out more about our public awareness work

Reporting on elections

Each year we publish reports on how well elections were run and make recommendations to improve future elections. We also publish reports following referendums.

Read our past election and referendum reports

We also publish information about what parties, candidates and campaigners received in donations and spent on campaigning ahead of a poll.

Find out more about donations and spending at elections and referendums

Roles and responsibilities