One casualty of the sweeping reforms to electoral law proposed by the Law Commission may be the smug feeling that comes from being the only person watching election night to know why it’s the acting returning officer who stands up at the mic.
As Gazette readers will know, this is because the Representation of the People Act 1983 designates local dignitaries as returning officer responsible for formalities to do with writs. Section 28(1) of the act provides that all the returning officer’s other duties, which include actually running the election, are performed by an acting returning officer.
Sensibly enough, the Law Commission decided that ‘this additional layer of complexity is redundant and confusing’. Its report, published last week, proposes ‘that returning officer functions should be bestowed on the person in England and Wales who is currently the acting returning officer. This recommendation would not prevent the oral declaration of the result by local dignitaries. It removes the fictitious notion that the writ is addressed to and returned by local dignitaries, when they have no responsibility for running the election.’
All sorted, then. Hardly the most pressing issue facing Her Majesty’s Government, but a small step to bringing it closer to the citizens.