From 'Arms, Malice, and Menacing' to the Courts: Disputed Elections and the Reform of the Election Petitions System

40 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2011

See all articles by Caroline Morris

Caroline Morris

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Date Written: April 11, 2011

Abstract

From the first recorded disputed election in 1319 to the unseating of Philip Woolas in 2010, disputes over the outcomes of elections have been a consistent feature of the electoral landscape.

A variety of ways have been tried to regulate controverted elections in the UK. This paper canvasses the history of the systems used to decide disputed elections: direct appeals to the Monarch, the ordinary courts, Star Chamber, parliamentary committees, and the final reform of the system in 1868 where jurisdiction was vested in the Election Court under the Parliamentary Elections Act. There have been no reforms since the Victorian era, despite the dominance of parties in the contesting of elections and the increasing role of the state in the electoral process.

This paper explores the points where the election petition system could usefully be reformed, suggesting changes to standing, access to justice rules, and a new role for the Electoral Commission. These reforms, if adopted, would open up the petitions system beyond the immediate participants in the candidacy contest and recognising the public, rather than private, nature of the process.

Suggested Citation

Morris, Caroline, From 'Arms, Malice, and Menacing' to the Courts: Disputed Elections and the Reform of the Election Petitions System (April 11, 2011). Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 79/2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1807152 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1807152

Caroline Morris (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

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