Late March 2015 Update !
The Electoral Commission has issued EVEN NEWER GUIDANCE on the use of Commonly Used Names on nomination papers. This says they are right on their interpretation of the law and suggest that ERO’s advice candidates in the correct interpretation of the law (in their eyes) but that its not their job to enforce it, so nominations should not be rejected for that reason
Back at the beginning of March they issued new guidance :
You have to use your name as it appears on the electoral register on the first lines of both the parliamentary and local election nomination forms.
But in the past you were able to then put a commonly used surname or forename that would replace the respective given names.
So my name on the register is John Richard Bridges
John Bridges and Richard Bridges would both be have been acceptable commonly used options in previous years but are not under the new guidance.
The new guidance (which conflicts with Schofield) suggests that if I use use Johnnie Bridges or anything that is spelt differently it is still allowable and would remove the second name “Richard” from the final ballot paper but using just your first on second names as they are on the register would not.
We have queried this with the electoral commission quoting Schofield and we await further clarification as this seems to be a biased, impractical and illogical conclusion to us – They have now responded and confirmed their position, on the law but have now added extra guidance to ERO’s telling them that they should not refuse forms that ignore their ruling, simply warn them of the potential consequences.
See the various guidance and legislation that have been issued below.
Electoral Administration Bulletin
Issue 103 (England and Wales) – 30 March 2015
Following a number of queries on the commonly used names provisions, we re-stated our advice in Bulletin 99 and have also sent a separate communication on this to the parties. We have since received a number of follow-up enquiries about what the (Acting) Returning Officer’s powers are if they receive a nomination form on which a candidate has used the commonly used name provisions to drop their forename or surname.
It is our view that (A)ROs do not have discretion to reject a has wrongly used the commonly used name provisions to drop their forename or surname. It is not for the (A)RO to decide whether the commonly used name is a ‘name’ or whether it meets the legal requirement to be different from any other name they may have.
The law requires (A)ROs to take whatever a candidate has entered in the commonly used name box at face value and to accept it as the candidate’s commonly used name. The commonly used name provided on the nomination form must be carried forward to the statement of persons nominated and the ballot paper unless the (A)RO thinks that:
(a) showing a candidate’s commonly used name on the ballot paper is likely to mislead or confuse electors; or
At candidate briefings, (A)ROs should remind candidates that, by law, a commonly used name is one that is different from any other forename or surname they may have.
If, at an informal check stage, (A)ROs are presented with a nomination form that has been completed in such a way that it appears to the (A)RO that the commonly used name given is not different from any other forename or surname they may have, the (A)RO should draw the candidate’s attention to the legal definition of a commonly used name and highlight that it is an offence to knowingly make a false statement on the nomination form. The (A)RO should also point out that if a nomination form is not completed in accordance with the law, the candidate will run the risk of challenge if they are elected. It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that they have completed their nomination in accordance with the law.
Electoral Administration Bulletin
Issue 99 (England and Wales) – 6 March 2015
Nominations and the use of commonly used names:
We have received a number of enquiries as to whether a candidate standing for election can use their first name as a commonly used name so that only their first and surname appear on a ballot paper, thus excluding their middle name. For example, in the case of Andrew John Smith, the question would be whether he could use ‘Andrew’ in the commonly used name box and appear on the ballot paper as Andrew Smith.
The legislation makes it clear that a commonly used name is one which is different from any other forename or surname.
This means that a forename in its original format cannot be used as a commonly used name. If a candidate wishes to use a commonly used forename and/or surname then these must be different from their full name as it appears on the nomination paper. Therefore, in the case of Andrew John Smith, he could not use Andrew Smith as his commonly used name, although he would be able to use Andy Smith (if Andy was the name by which he is commonly known).
Previously from the Electoral Commission Guidance for candidates and agents
Part 2b of 6 – Standing as a party candidate published in Feb 2015
1.85 If you commonly use a different name from your actual name, you can ask for your commonly used name(s) to be used instead of your actual name. The commonly used
name(s) would then appear on the statement of persons nominated and the notice of poll, and the ballot papers
1.86 The (Acting) Returning Officer will disallow commonly used names that are likely to mislead or confuse electors, or are obscene or offensive. If the name(s) are not permissible,
the (Acting) Returning Officer will write to you stating the reason for rejection. In those cases, your actual name will be used instead.
1.87 You can request to use a commonly used forename, surname or both.
1.88 For example, you may be known by your abbreviated name ‘Andy’, rather than your full first name ‘Andrew’. In that case, you can write ‘Andy’ into the commonly used forename box on the nomination paper if you would rather that name appear on the ballot paper.
1.89 You may also use initials as part of your commonly used
name if you are commonly known by them.
1.90 If either the commonly used forename or surname box on the nomination paper is left blank, then your actual forename
From Schofields Election Law
Filling up nomination paper
At a parliamentary election, each candidate must be nominated by a separate nomination paper in the form in the Appendix to the Parliamentary Elections Rules.(see note 1) At a European parliamentary election, nominations may be made either for an individual candidate or for a registered party.
The nomination paper must state the candidate’s full names and, if desired, description and the surname must be placed first in the list of names.(see note 3) As to this requirement, see Greenway-Stanley v Paterson .
Section 21 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 amended the Parliamentary Elections Rules in Sch.1 to the 1983 Act to allow the use of a candidate’s common name, i.e. a single name, a shortened version of a forename, a professional or stage name, a name where initials are used or a married woman’s maiden name which she retains in connection with her job or profession.
The statute says:
Representation of the Peoples Act 1983 Schedule 1 – Parliamentary Elections Rules
Nomination of candidates
6. (2) The nomination paper shall state the candidate’s—
(a) full names,
and the surname shall be placed first in the list of his names.
(6. 2A) If a candidate commonly uses—
(a) a surname which is different from any other surname he has, or
(b) a forename which is different from any other forename he has,
the nomination paper may state the commonly used surname or forename in addition to the other name.
I got this from our ERO which seems to leave the door open but may give EROs problems matching names with the electoral roll if that is being used as a qualification criterion.
Further to our email conversation the other day, please see below the email from the Electoral Commission regarding commonly used names.
As this is their guidance, this is what we will be following.
Frances Cleland BA(Hons), AEA (Cert)
Electoral Services Manager
Test Valley Borough Council
From: Rachel Stephenson [mailto:RStephenson@electoralcommission.org.uk]
Sent: 25 March 2015 17:09
To: Cleland, Frances
Subject: RE: Commonly Used Names
Thank you for your email. The candidate would not be able to use John as his commonly used name; if a candidate wishes to use a commonly used forename and/or surname then these must be different from must be different from any other forename or surname that appears on the nomination paper.
Obviously if you didn’t know that John was a middle name rather than a first name and he had put John Smith as his name on the nomination then you as RO would have to take it at face value as you have no powers to investigate the details of a nomination form.
I hope this helps.
Regional Liaison Officer, North of England
Advice and guidance line: 0333 103 1928
Advice and guidance email: email@example.com
Direct Dial: 020 7271 0575
Fax: 020 7271 0505